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Qualifying begins Monday for Georgia federal, state offices

March 1, 2020 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s political season kicks into high gear Monday as qualifying for state and federal offices begins.

Some voters will also be making their first encounters with the state’s new voting machines as early voting begins Monday in selected locations statewide for the March 24 presidential primary.

Candidates for two U.S. Senate races will be officially signing up, as will candidates for Georgia’s 14 U.S. House seats, 56 state Senate seats and 180 state House seats. Qualifying closes at noon on Friday.

The headline Georgia race will be the special election for the last two years of the term of former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. Gov. Brian Kemp named fellow Republican Kelly Loeffler to the seat on Jan. 6, but she’s being challenged by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a GOP congressman from northeast Georgia.

Democrats who have announced for the seat include: Ed Tarver, former U.S. attorney for Georgia’s Southern District; Matt Lieberman, an educator and the son of former senator and vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman; and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

The Nov. 3 special election won’t be preceded by the usual party primaries, and there could be a January runoff if no candidate wins a majority.

Secretary of State Raffensperger had sought a last-minute change to state law to ensure he’s authorized to set the qualifying period in the race, but that legislation stalled after an attempt to require party primaries for some special elections. Raffensperger said he’s relying on past practice instead.

There will be May 19 primaries in other races, including U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s attempt to win another term. There’s a crowded Democratic field seeking the nomination to oppose Perdue, including former lieutenant governor candidate Sarah Riggs Amico, former congressional candidate Jon Ossoff and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson.

There are dozens of candidates who have declared for the state’s congressional seats. Competitive primaries are expected in both parties in the 7th Congressional District, where Republican U.S. Rep Rob Woodall is stepping down after barely winning a fifth term in 2018. Competitive Republican primaries are shaping up in northeast Georgia’s 9th Congressional District, where Collins is stepping down to run for Senate and northwest Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, where Republican Tom Graves isn’t running for re-election.

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