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Kemp: New primary date will mean extended runoff campaigns

Secretary of State Brian Kemp told Covington Rotarians Tuesday that a bill passed by both the House and Senate last week will synchronize federal and state primary elections in Georgia. The state’s primary elections will be held May 20. (Staff Photo: Alice Queen)

Secretary of State Brian Kemp told Covington Rotarians Tuesday that a bill passed by both the House and Senate last week will synchronize federal and state primary elections in Georgia. The state’s primary elections will be held May 20. (Staff Photo: Alice Queen)

COVINGTON — Candidates for office in Georgia who wind up in a primary election runoff will face a tough campaign schedule, Secretary of State Brian Kemp told Covington Rotarians at a luncheon meeting Tuesday.

Under the new election schedule, which advances primary elections to May from the normal July date, candidates will have nine weeks between the primary and the runoff rather than the usual three weeks.

“You are going to have a May 20th primary and the runoff won’t be until July 22,” Kemp said, “So y’all can look forward to nine weeks of candidates bashing each other in the runoff.”

Kemp also said he knows first-hand from his campaigns for state senator that runoffs can be tough, and the extended runoff period could prove expensive for candidates.

Kemp said a bill passed by both the House and Senate last week setting the state’s primary election at May 20 was the key piece of legislation for his office this session. Kemp said the bill was in response to a federal court ruling scheduling the federal primary election for May 20. The federal ruling did not address the state primary elections.

“What we wanted to get done this session, working with the governor and the leadership at the Capitol the last several months, was we needed to sync those election calendars,” Kemp explained. “It would have been a nightmare for us to have to have two different primaries. It would have been obviously very expensive for the counties and the state. It would have been an administrative nightmare for us, and it would have been very confusing for the voters.”

Kemp said it will be interesting to see how the election season is affected by the new primary schedule.

“That’s going to be the earliest election for a primary that I can remember us having in Georgia,” he said. “There’s a lot of difference in having this election before our school systems get out (for the summer) versus when we used to have July primaries in the third week of July. A lot of people are still getting over the July 4th vacation … not many people focus on politics in the summer. So it is going to be interesting to see how that plays out at the ballot box.”

The general election, set for Nov. 4, is not affected by the new primary date.

Kemp has served as secretary of state since 2010. He served as a state senator from 2002 to 2006.