Secretary Of State Says Fix 'Jungle Primaries' – Just Not This Year

Jan 31, 2020

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger wants to postpone any changes to a so-called "jungle primary" rule until after this November's special election, avoiding a May primary contest between appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and Congressman Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) while making other changes the chief elections official desires.

In a statement, Raffensperger agreed with earlier comments House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) made about eliminating the election rule that sees all candidates, regardless of party, on the same ballot.

“We agree with Speaker Ralston that Jungle Elections are problematic," he said. "That is why we propose a bipartisan commission to review and propose legislation to rationalize the special election process for future elections after 2020.”

HB 757 was sent back to the Governmental Affairs committee before it could appear on the House floor yesterday under the threat of a veto from Gov. Brian Kemp.  
The original intent of the fast-moving legislation was to codify the secretary of state's authority to set the qualifying dates for special elections, and was amended Monday to include a provision forcing the special election to fill out the rest of Johnny Isakson's term into a May special primary followed by a November special election.

This change, engineered by Republicans who support Collins' Senate bid and approved by Democrats eager to consolidate support behind Rev. Raphael Warnock's campaign, was met with swift condemnation from Kemp, who appointed Loeffler to fill the seat.

While this proposal by Raffensperger would not mitigate the bitter intraparty battle Collins and Loeffler face leading into the election, the original bill's passage could ensure the qualifying period for both the Senate special election and the regular Senate election occur at the same time in March.

But any changes to HB 757 would have to be made in committee, and the future of the legislation governing qualifying dates is uncertain.

The regularly scheduled Senate contest pits Sarah Riggs Amico, Jon Ossoff and Teresa Tomlinson against each other in a May primary, with the victor facing Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in November. Warnock joins Matt Lieberman and other lesser-known candidates running as Democrats in the special election.