Early voting opens today in Georgia

Elmir Nuhanovic, center, crouches down on the floor as his grandfather, Ekrem Nuhanovic watches over him during voting for the New York presidential primaries at the Utica Armory Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in Utica, N.Y. (Tina Russell/Observer-Dispatch via AP)

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North Georgia residents can find out where to vote early in their counties by calling their local probate court offices.Catoosa County Probate Court: 706-935-3511Whitfield County Probate Court: 706-275-7400Dade County Probate Court: 706-657-4414Walker County Probate Court: 706-638-2852Murray County Probate Court: 706-695-3812Gordon County Probate Court: 706-629-7314Chattooga County Probate Court: 706-857-0706

Key contested races in area Georgia primaries

U.S. Representative, District 14Allan Levene (R)Mickey Tuck (R)Tom Graves (incumbent) (R)State Senator, District 53Jeff Mullis (incumbent) (R)Lanny Thomas (R)State Senator, District 54Charlie Bethel (incumbent) (R)Conda Lowery-Goodson (R)State Representative, District 3Dewayne Hill (R)Jeff Holcomb (R)Jeremy Jones (R)State Representative, District 4Bruce Broadrick (incumbent) (R)Kasey Carpenter (R)State Representative, District 6Jason T. Ridley (R)Sarah Fields (R)Tom Dickson (incumbent) (R)Conasauga Judicial Circuit Superior Court JudgeCatrina Celeste CreswellBarry Scott MinterSteve FarrowCatoosa County SheriffBen Scott (R)Gary Sisk (incumbent) (R)Dade County Commission ChairTed Rumley Sr. (incumbent) (R)Cliff Auman (R)Wes Hixon (R)Dade County SheriffDanny Ellis (R)Ray Cross (incumbent) (R)Walker County sole commissionerMike Peardon (R)Shannon Whitfield (R)

Georgia residents have their first chance to cast ballots in this month's primary elections today as early voting begins across the state.

The May 24 primary features several northwest Georgia state senators and representatives facing opposition in their bids for reelection, while incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, seeks to fend off a pair of challengers in Mickey Tuck and Allan Levene.

Several prominent local offices also feature contested primaries. Because there are no Democrats seeking the seats, the GOP primary winners essentially are elected in many races.

There is one noteworthy name missing from the ballot in Walker County in this primary, though.

Walker County sole commissioner Bebe Heiskell is not on the primary ballot because, after winning four terms as a Republican, she is running as an independent candidate this year.

Republicans Mike Peardon and Shannon Whitfield are vying for the Republican nomination for the position. The two were scheduled to debate Saturday, but Peardon did not show up.

The Georgia House District 3 seat, which covers Catoosa County, is a three-man race between Jeff Holcomb, Jeremy Jones and Dewayne Hill.

Their presence on the ballot follows a controversial qualifying process. Hill was the only challenger initially to file against incumbent Tom Weldon, who then withdrew from the race after the qualifying deadline.

County officials petitioned the state Republican Party to reopen qualifying, but three candidates who jumped into the race were disqualified one point after the state party failed to provide the election office with the proper paperwork on time. So qualifying opened yet again, and the three finalists emerged.

Absentee ballots are also available now. They can be requested through county registrars' offices or through the Georgia Secretary of State's website, www.sos.ga.gov.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.