Georgia Democrats vote on Senate challenger as five U.S. states hold primaries

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Georgia Democrats will try to pick their challenger to Republican Senator David Perdue on Tuesday when voters in five U.S. states choose candidates for the White House and Congress as the nation navigates a trio of politically charged crises.

U.S. cities over the past two weeks have seen large-scale protests against high-profile killings of black men including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, while coping with a pandemic that has killed more than 108,000 people and thrown tens of millions out of work.

Jon Ossoff leads a large field of Democrats seeking the party’s Senate nomination in Georgia, three years after he nearly won a former Republican stronghold in the state in what was then the most expensive House race ever.

Ossoff’s campaign ads have seized on the coronavirus pandemic to attack health insurance companies, and he refers to Arbery’s death as an impetus for criminal justice reform.

Ossoff, 33, faces six other Democrats, including former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Sarah Riggs Amico, the 2018 lieutenant governor nominee. He needs 50% of the vote to avoid an Aug. 11 runoff for the nomination. Perdue has no primary challengers.

Recent polling suggests Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, would be competitive against Perdue, who holds a slight edge. Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost Georgia’s last statewide election when she ran for governor in 2018.

The other states voting on Tuesday are Nevada, South Carolina, North Dakota and West Virginia. Georgia and West Virginia also have presidential primaries, though former Vice President Joe Biden has secured enough votes to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November.

The spread of the coronavirus forced several changes in voting dates and procedures. Both West Virginia and Georgia delayed earlier primaries.

Nevada sent ballots to voters for an all-mail election and North Dakota, Georgia and West Virginia sent applications for absentee ballots to voters to provide the option of voting by mail. South Carolina voters can get the application online.

In South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, the first female graduate of the Citadel military college is vying with three other Republicans for the nomination to challenge freshman Democratic Representative Joe Cunningham. In 2018 he was the first Democrat to win the coastal district in decades.

Citadel graduate Nancy Mace, a 42-year-old state legislator who worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign, has emphasized her ties to the president, who won the district handily in 2016. Also on the Republican ballot is financial planner Kathy Landing and the founder of “Bikers for Trump,” Chris Cox.

In Nevada’s 4th District, Democratic Representative Steven Horsford admitted last month to an extramarital affair with a former Senate intern. Horsford faces five challengers in the Democratic primary, but they have reported raising little or no campaign cash.

Meanwhile eight Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination. The top Republican fundraiser, Jim Marchant, is a former state lawmaker who has sought to align himself with Trump and has the backing of the House Freedom Fund, the Freedom Caucus’ political action committee.

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