Georgia primary voters stick with challenged incumbents

A voter casts a ballot at a polling site Tuesday, May 24, 2016, in Atlanta.

Georgia Republicans who fervently backed Donald Trump for president a few months ago ended up sticking with political insiders Tuesday as incumbents swept to victory in contested primary elections across the state.

Though nobody named Trump or Clinton was on the ballot, Georgia voters returned to the polls to give the state's senior U.S. senator a shot at keeping his job in the fall election. Voters also handed victories to five GOP congressmen facing primary opponents as well as one member of the utility-regulating Georgia Public Service Commission.

Even a state lawmaker charged with drunken driving last month had little trouble winning.

A look at key primary races in Georgia:



Sen. Johnny Isakson will get to run for a third term in Washington this fall after overcoming two fellow Republicans standing in his way.

Both of Isakson's GOP challengers, Derrick Grayson and Mary Kay Bacallao, had previously run unsuccessful statewide campaigns in 2014 - and they fared no better Tuesday.

Grayson, an engineer from Redan, tried questioning whether Isakson would complete another six-year term. Isakson announced last summer that he has Parkinson's disease but says he can still do the job.

Bacallao, a college professor from Fayetteville, had criticized Isakson for voting with others to replace the federal education standards known as No Child Left Behind.

Investment manager Jim Barksdale averted a runoff in the Democratic primary and will face Isakson in November. Top Democrats backed the political newcomer in his race against project manager Cheryl Copeland of Hira and Atlanta businessman John Coyne. Barksdale, of Atlanta, loaned his campaign more than $1 million to get through the primary.



Two Republicans are heading to a runoff in west Georgia to decide which candidate gets a shot at replacing GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland as he retires from Congress.

State Sen. Mike Crane of Newnan and former West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson finished neck-and-neck in a jam-packed field of seven Republicans. Voters will decide the GOP nominee for Westmoreland's 3rd District in a runoff July 26.

Unofficial returns late Tuesday showed the primary race was too close to call between Democrats Angela Pendley of Grantville and Tamarkus Cook of Newnan.



Five of Georgia's Republican congressmen fended off primary challengers Tuesday, while another GOP House member was fighting to advance to the fall campaign.

GOP Reps. Doug Collins of Gainesville and Barry Loudermilk of Cassville overcame four Republican primary challengers apiece to defend their seats with no need for a runoff. Collins' vanquished opponents in the 9th District included former Georgia congressman Paul Broun, who was seeking a comeback after a failed 2014 campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Rep. Rick Allen won a 12th District rematch with fellow Augusta Republican Eugene Yu, who sought a comeback after losing to Allen in the 2014 primary.

GOP Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton defeated Macon business owner Angela Hicks in the 8th District. It was Scott's first contested race in a primary or general election since he won the seat in 2010.

In northwest Georgia's 14th District, Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger overcame a pair of Republicans: Rome business owner Allen Levine and electrician Mickey Tuck of Silver Creek.

With no Democrat seeking their seats, Collins' and Graves' victories essentially guarantee they will return to Washington next year.

Loudermilk must defeat Democrat Don Wilson, a Marietta investment banker, to win a second term in the 11th District. Scott will face Democrat James Neal Harris of Gray in the November general election. Democrat Tricia Carpenter McCracken of Augusta will challenge Allen.



Incumbent Tim Echols defeated two Republicans seeking his seat on the state Public Service Commission.

Echols beat fellow Republicans Kellie Pollard Austin and Michelle Miller in the primary election Tuesday.

The win means Echols should coast to a second, six-year term on the utility regulating commission in November, because no Democrats signed up to run for the statewide position.



Metro Atlanta voters showed forgiveness to a state lawmaker who was charged with drunken driving last month.

Republican Rep. Tom Taylor of Dunwoody said he made a "serious mistake" after he was arrested April 7 in Rabun County. Regardless, Taylor easily defeated GOP primary opponent Tom Owens of Doraville, who ran on the slogan "sober conservative judgment."

A police report said Taylor's blood-alcohol content was nearly three times over the legal limit. He had four teenage passengers.

Meanwhile, GOP House Speaker David Ralston trounced Sam Snider of Ellijay, who sought a rematch after losing to the powerful Republican in 2014. No Democrats were seeking Ralston's 7th District seat, meaning he should coast to re-election in the fall.

In the Georgia House, 34 Republican and 27 Democratic incumbents faced primary opponents. In the Senate, 12 Republicans and three Democrats faced contested primaries.



Secretary of State Brian Kemp predicted solid turnout Tuesday based on early voting numbers.

Kemp's office reported about 329,000 people cast or mailed in ballots by Friday, the last day for early voting before Tuesday's primary.

That's a 38 percent increase from early voting totals in the 2012 primary. But it's still far behind the more than 417,000 who set an early voting record in Georgia before the March presidential primaries.