In context: You only thought this was the election year from hell. What started with a statewide switch to new voting machines morphed into a delayed while under way presidential preference primary, the mailing of more than 6 million absentee ballot applications because of the ongoing pandemic, a second primary delay; absentee ballot challenges; long lines and massive confusion both at the precincts on the June 9 primary and the Aug. 11 runoff; some local challenge and personality issues within Floyd County’s election community; and a Republican House nominee that is bringing national scrutiny — and scorn — to the region.
Now add to that two more punches to the gut, both unfolding within hours of each other on Friday.
Kevin Van Ausdal, the Democratic candidate for the 14th Congressional District — a long shot in a deeply Republican Northwest Georgia who was picking up support — exits the race as his marriage crumbles and a move to Indiana is under way. Never mind that absentee ballots go out this coming week for the Nov. 3. And then the incumbent who caused the nine-month-old battle for the congressional seat — Tom Graves — announces he’ll resign in October with roughly three months left in his term.
Can the election year get any worse? That depends on your perspective:
Nov. 3 election: As reported by the AJC, “the Democratic Party of Georgia immediately called on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to disqualify Van Ausdal from the ballot and allow the party “to name a replacement as soon as possible” — much like what happened after U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ death in July. But Democrats may not get the same chance in this race. Georgia law says that vacancies in these sort of elections “created by reason of the withdrawal of a candidate less than 60 days prior to the date of the election shall not be filled.” Friday marked 53 days until the general election. The Georgia secretary of state’s office said the state code does not allow another Democrat to run. “The law is clear,” Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said. “Mr. Van Ausdal can withdraw his candidacy or remain on the ballot. He cannot be replaced.”
- We expected more challenges to the Secretary of State’s immediate reaction on Saturday and perhaps they’ll emerge today. We likewise expected a flood of press releases and Facebook posts from all sides of this one as there is no time to waste. We do know there are several qualified Democrats willing to step in from Northwest Georgia and that Van Ausdal’s election team remains intact and ready to work with that candidate. It would be the ultimate Hail Mary pass, especially given Marjorie Taylor Greene’s success so far in the campaign as well as the massive amount of money she has spent already.
Special election as Graves’ exits: Again, from the AJC: “It’s not yet clear whether will be a special election to fill the remainder of Graves’ term, though Gov. Brian Kemp’s office indicated he intends to issue a writ within 10 days that could set up a vote.”
- In his exit statement, Graves said his work will be done by October, citing traditional congressional recesses through the end of the year. Still, that leaves the counties in the 14th District unrepresented, especially with a dramatic Nov. 3 election that is expected to have major dustups after the votes are counted no matter who wins. Some argue the election to replace Graves would be moot, presuming a Republican winner would still be in the minority party with little sway. Basically, he or she would be a place holder.
Together, the twin vacancies — on ballot and in Congress — will dominate politics this week in Northwest Georgia, Atlanta and Washington.
A look at what’s on the Nov. 3 ballot:
- Floyd County Commission, Post 2: Wright Bagby, R; Charles “Coach” Smith, D.
- Floyd County Commission, Post 3; Allison Watters, R; Shonna Bailey, Post 3, D.
- Clerk of Court: Barbara Penson, R; Moriah Medina, D.
- District 12: Eddie Lumsden, R; Jonathan Gilreath-Harvey, D.
- District 16: Trey Kelley, R; Lyndsay Arrendale, D.
- District 14: Bruce Thompson, R.; Travis Johnson, D.
- District 31: Jason, Anavitarte, R; Tianna Smith, D.
- District 52: Chuck Hufstetler, R; Charles DeYoung, D.
Georgia Public Service Commission:
- District 1: Robert G. Byrant, D; Jason Shaw, R.
- District 4: Daniel Blackman, D; Lauren Bubba McDonald, Jr., R.
U.S. House (District 11):
- Democrat: Dana Barrett; Republican Barry Loudermilk.
U.S. House (District 14):
- Republican: Marjorie Taylor Greene; Democrat:
- Republican David Perdue; Democrat Jon Ossoff
U.S. Senate (Isakson term):
- Democrats: Deborah Jackson, Jamesia James, Tamara Johnson-Shealey, Matt Lieberman, Joy Felicia Slade, Ed Tarver, Raphael Warnock, Richard Dien Winfield.
- Republicans: Doug Collins, Derrick Grayson, Annette Davis Jackson, A. Wayne Johnson, Kelly Loeffler, Kandiss Taylor.
From the Secretary of State’s office: Includes key dates to remember now through election day on Nov. 3.
- Sept. 15: Earliest day for a registrar to mail an absentee ballot for the November General Election and Special Election. Absentee ballots shall be mailed out as soon as possible prior to the General Election and Special Election Runoffs for Local and State Offices. Request a ballot.
- Oct. 5: Last day a person may register and be eligible to vote in the November General Election and Special Election Runoff for Local and State Offices.
- Oct. 12: Advanced In Person (Early) Voting begins for the November General Election and Special Election.
- Oct. 24: Mandatory Saturday Voting for the November General Election and Special Election.
- Oct. 30: Advance voting ends.
- Nov. 3: Election Day, precincts open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.