ATLANTA — Republican incumbents came away from Friday’s end to candidate qualifying with a slew of challengers from both parties, including U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson who gained a second primary rival.
The line of opponents grew longer for him when a Fayetteville college professor, qualified as a candidate, Mary Kay Bacallao. She joins Derrick Grayson to make a three-way Republican primary. Both have lost statewide primaries recently.
The Republican winner will face Libertarian nominee Allen Buckley and whoever survives of the four Democrats signed up for that party’s primary.
The appetite of Republican challengers is so strong this year that 11 of the state’s 14 members of Congress have challengers. U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter representing the First District and Jody Hice in the 10th District, both freshmen Republicans, and Democrat David Scott in the 13th are the only three Georgia congressmen to escape without a challenger when the week of candidate qualifying ended at noon Friday.
In the legislature, several members of the General Assembly leadership discovered they had challengers.
State Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, drew a primary opponent, retired Bishop teacher Patricia Dougherty.
In the neighboring district, Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, the chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, now has to face student Tyler Hollifield of Athens in the Republican primary.
The contest for the seat opening up due to state Sen. Tommie Williams’ retirement now has a third Republican, Kevin “Bald Eagle” Parker, a Uvalda insurance agent who will face Blake Tillery and Delvis Dutton in the primary.
In the race for the state House seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Bob Bryant, Alicia Miller Blakely qualified. Friday’s addition of the Savannah longshorewoman is the third candidate to qualify, joining Feed the Hungry Inc. CEO Carl Gilliard of Garden City and Savannah businessman Josey Sheppard Jr. in the Democratic primary. All three qualified last week for the March 29 special election to complete the nine months remaining in Bryant’s term.
Farther down the coast, freshman House Republican Jeff Jones of St. Simons Island will face retired Democrat Steven Reighard, who also lives on the island.