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Election guide: Georgia voters cast ballots in runoff Tuesday

Georgia votes.jpg
Images: MGN

Voters in Georgia cast ballots in a runoff election Tuesday. Polls will remain open statewide until 7 p.m. After that, depend on NewsChannel 9 to bring you full runoff election results. Check them here throughout the night.

Related: Read more about Tennessee's August 2nd primary here.

Below, more details about down-ballot races in the Peach State. But the big race of the day is the GOP runoff to choose a nominee to lead the state as governor.

GOVERNOR

Georgia Republicans decide a bruising gubernatorial runoff Tuesday that is testing the loyalty of conservative voters to President Donald Trump and their frequent rejection of the establishment in favor of outside, bare-knuckled politics.

The matchup between Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle pits the White House, which backs Kemp, against outgoing Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who backs Cagle. Democrat Stacey Abrams awaits the winner in the fall, seeking to become the first black female governor of any American state.

A well-known figure at the Georgia Capitol, Cagle entered the Republican race as the presumed front-runner, with financial backing from much of the state's lobbying class. Even as a statewide elected official, Kemp positioned himself as a "politically incorrect conservative" outsider perpetually battling liberal Democrats and Republican insiders.

Both Republicans have tried to align themselves with Trump, while taking hard lines on immigration, guns and social issues. But Cagle is widely viewed as the more moderate choice and the candidate most likely to tack back to the center in a general election campaign. The question is whether that's a liability that prevents him from getting past Republican primary voters that Kemp courted with ads featuring guns, chainsaws and a pickup truck to "round up criminal illegals."

Cagle led the initial five-man primary in May, but fell well shy of the majority required to avoid a runoff. The two months since have been a cascade of problems for the veteran politician, and public polls suggest Kemp has closed the gap.

The lieutenant governor unwittingly played into Kemp's framing when he was secretly recorded earlier this year by a former rival who captured Cagle explaining in detail that he steered legislation in the state Senate based on campaign contributions. Another clip among several released during the runoff campaign revealed Cagle describing the GOP contest as a race to be "the craziest" candidate with "the biggest gun" and "the biggest truck."

Trump's unexpected endorsement of Kemp last week, followed by a weekend visit from Vice President Mike Pence, threw the race into overdrive.

"Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration. He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment. I give him my full and total endorsement," Trump tweeted.

It was an unexpected venture into a governor's race for a president whose midterm electoral efforts have been focused mostly on defending GOP majorities on Capitol Hill and on his own re-election campaign rallies.

It's a matter of risk-and-reward for Georgia Republicans and Trump, who was burned last year when he twice backed losing Senate candidates in neighboring Alabama. Kemp offers Trump a chance to back another brash politician who can carry the president's brand in a state the president won in 2016. But that alliance also alarms some GOP players wary about Georgia's changing electorate and a national mood that favors Democrats — potentially giving Democrats an opening in a state the GOP has dominated at the polls for the last two decades.

Those concerns became evident days before Trump waded into the race, when Deal, a broadly popular figure, weighed in with his own 11th hour endorsement for Cagle. Deal touted Cagle as an able business recruiting partner and his best potential successor, but the move stood out for a governor who'd previously been content to leave party faithful to their own choices. In Georgia, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected independently, meaning Cagle was never elected as part of a ticket with Deal, though the pair hail from the same north Georgia town of Gainesville.

The National Rifle Association also threw its weight behind Cagle in April after he helped kill a tax break that would have saved Delta Air Lines, one of the state's largest employers, millions per year for ending a discount program for NRA members. Cagle was joined on the campaign trail by the president-elect of the gun-rights group, Oliver North, for stops in Savannah, Kennesaw and Gainesville.

Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. across the state. Early in-person voting began July 2.

DOWN-BALLOT RACES

Georgia voters headed to the polls Tuesday to settle several key primary campaigns besides the heated Republican race for governor.

As Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp have their final showdown in the GOP nominating contest to succeed departing Gov. Nathan Deal, voters also are deciding Republican runoffs for the two statewide offices that Cagle and Kemp are vacating.

Democratic voters, meanwhile, were picking a nominee to challenge Georgia's GOP state school superintendent in November, and also selecting Democratic opponents for two Republican congressmen.

Here's a look at Tuesday's down-ballot runoff races in Georgia.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Two former Republican colleagues from the Georgia legislature are waging a heated runoff race to win the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor.

State Sen. David Shafer of Duluth has served at the state Capitol since 2002 and once was the Senate's president pro tempore. Former Rep. Geoff Duncan of Cumming spent five years in the House. They're competing for a chance to succeed Cagle in the state's No. 2 elected office, whose main job is to preside over the Senate.

Shafer has promoted scrapping Georgia's income tax and replacing it with a state sales tax. Duncan has cast himself as an outsider, despite his time as a state lawmaker, and accused Shafer of profiting from his 16 years in office.

The runoff winner will face Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico, a Marietta businesswoman, in the November general election.

SECRETARY OF STATE

A Republican lawmaker and a former Georgia mayor are facing off for a shot at becoming the state's top elections official.

Former Alpharetta mayor David Belle Isle and state Rep. Brad Raffensperger of Johns Creek were the top vote getters in a four-way GOP primary May 22 for secretary of state. The job is currently held by Kemp, who passed on seeking re-election in order to run for governor.

Both candidates have said upgrading Georgia's electronic voting machines for improved security is their top priority.

The secretary of state's office oversees elections in Georgia as well as corporate filings and professional licensing.

The Republican runoff winner will advance to the fall campaign against Democrat John Barrow of Athens, a former Georgia congressman seeking a political comeback after losing his seat in 2014.

SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT

One served as president of a major advocacy group for Georgia teachers. The other once headed the National PTA. Both are running as Democrats for the office of state school superintendent.

Sid Chapman of Griffin and Otha Thornton Jr. of Richmond Hill are competing for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican School Superintendent Richard Woods in the November general election.

Chapman is a former classroom teacher as well as a past president of the Georgia Association of Educators. He's been endorsed by former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes.

Thornton is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who became the first black man named president of the National PTA in 2013. Arne Duncan, who served as education secretary under President Barack Obama, has endorsed Thornton.

CONGRESSIONAL RUNOFFS

Voters in metro Atlanta are picking Democratic challengers for two of Georgia's Republican congressmen.

In the 6th Congressional District, Kevin Abel of Sandy Springs faces fellow Democrat Lucy McBath of Marietta. Able owns a technology consulting company. McBath is a gun control activist whose teenage son was fatally shot in Florida in 2012.

The runoff winner will challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, whose victory over Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special election last year capped a $50 million campaign that was the most expensive U.S. House race in history.

A Democratic runoff in the neighboring 7th Congressional District pits Carolyn Bourdeaux of Suwanee against David Kim of Duluth. Bourdeaux is a professor and former director of the state Senate Budget and Evaluation Office. Kim publishes books and magazines for teenagers.

The winning Democrat will face GOP Rep. Rob Woodall in the fall election.

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