State Rep. Bee Nguyen celebrates with supporters and staff at her victory party in Atlanta after clinching the Democratic nomination for secretary of state during the primary runoff election on June 21.
Credit: Riley Bunch/GPB News

A handful of Democratic primaries advanced to runoffs after frontrunners failed to earn enough votes to win outright in the primary election in May.

Voters cast their ballots again in key statewide races like secretary of state and lieutenant governor. Two congressional seat nominees were also decided in runoffs. 

Candidates who triumphed are eyeing the party’s momentum from 2020 when Georgians backed a Democrat for president and the state’s two U.S. Senate seats.

Here’s a rundown of the Democratic nominees who won Tuesday night.

Secretary of state

State Rep. Bee Nguyen clinched the Democratic nomination for secretary of state in the June 21 primary election runoff. If elected, she would become the first Asian American to hold a statewide office in Georgia.

Nguyen, who did not secure enough votes to win the primary outright in May, beat former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler in a runoff Tuesday night. The Associated Press called the race at around 7:45 p.m.

Nguyen was the first Vietnamese American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly. 

The question that I’ve been asked as I’ve been on this campaign trail for 14 months has been: Will Georgians vote for an Asian candidate?” Nguyen said at her victory party. “The answer is: Yes, Georgians will!”

The Atlanta representative skyrocketed her political profile during the 2020 legislative session during a speech where she dissected the Republican-pushed omnibus election overhaul, Senate Bill 202, passed by the majority party to appease constituents angry with the outcome of the election.

She also has the powerful backing of high-profile Democrat and gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, who has appeared beside the state lawmaker at many events. The pair made press appearances on primary election day at the same voting precinct in Atlanta.

Nguyen will face Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger who, in a shocking turn, won his primary outright with about 52% of the votes and avoided a runoff. 

Raffensperger became a top target of former President Donald Trump’s wrath when he refused to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia but instead affirmed President Joe Biden’s win after an initial tally, a hand recount and an audit. 

A year and a half later, Raffensperger is again in the national spotlight as a key witness during the Jan. 6 congressional committee hearings in Washington, D.C. In May, Raffensperger beat out three challengers including U.S. Rep. Jody Hice,  the Trump-endorsed candidate and election denier.

Pundits speculate that the secretary of state’s win was aided by record early voting turnout and a large number of voters who’d previously voted in Democratic primaries but pulled a Republican ballot this time around.

We must remind Georgia voters that Brad Raffensperger, he is not a friend to our democracy,” Nguyen said. “We must remind Georgia voters that doing the bare minimum of following the law should not be good enough. We will remind Georgia voters that today — 100 degrees outside — giving a bottle of water to a Georgian waiting in line is a crime.”

Lieutenant governor

Attorney Charlie Bailey also triumphed over his opponent on Tuesday night, when voters selected him as the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

He beat former U.S. Rep. Kwanza Hall, who surprised many by winning a large chunk of the votes during the initial primary election, but not enough for the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

Bailey — a former prosecutor in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office — will be running against Republican State Sen. Burt Jones, the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. But Bailey is also backed by an Abrams endorsement.

At his victory party, Bailey criticized Jones for pushing politics of “hate and division.”

“It’s a politics that says not everybody’s vote does matter the same,” he said Tuesday. “And not everybody’s child matters the same. And not everybody’s community matters same. Not everybody’s school matters the same. It’s a politics that says representative democracy is not worth fighting for. It’s a politics that says we get to choose whether we win or lose races.”

U.S. House District 1

Savannah business attorney Wade Herring has won the Democratic runoff for coastal Georgia’s 1st Congressional District, defeating retired Army intelligence officer Joyce Griggs.

The runoff marks a come-from-behind victory for Herring, as he very narrowly avoided losing the race in the May primary: in that contest, Griggs garnered about 49% of the vote — just 636 votes shy of winning the nomination outright.

Herring will face incumbent Republican Buddy Carter, who is running for his fifth term in office. The 1st District has not been represented by a Democrat since 1993.

“In all candor, [Buddy Carter] has not been seriously tested by a Democrat who could get the message out to the voters about an alternative,” Herring told GPB News. “I think with my campaign, I’ve demonstrated that I have the capability, the capacity to get the message out.”

Despite this being Herring’s first time ever running for political office, he has amassed a war chest comparable to his opponent’s: According to the latest filings from the Federal Election Commission, Herring has raised about $737,000, compared to Carter’s roughly $1.2 million.

U.S. House District 10

Longtime registered nurse Tabitha Johnson-Green is the Democrat who will face Republican trucking executive Republican Mike Collins in November for the chance to represent Georgia’s 10th District.

The Associated Press called the race for Johnson-Greene shortly after 10 p.m. when she had more than 63% of the votes — beating out her opponent ,Jessica Allison Fore.

Johnson-Green won the Democratic nomination for the same seat two years ago.

Labor commissioner

State Rep. William Boddie, the current East Point state representative, was first elected to serve in 2016 and is the Abram-endorsed candidate in the race. He serves as the Minority Whip in the House and the Communications Chair for the Legislative Black Caucus.

Boddie beat out Nicole Horn, who was not far behind him in votes during the first primary crowded election. He will face state Sen. Bruce Thompson in the November general election.

Georgians got a firsthand look at the importance of the state’s labor department during the COVID-19 pandemic, when thousands of jobless residents struggled to receive their unemployment benefits while department staff drowned in requests.

After intense scrutiny during the pandemic, current Commissioner Mark Butler, a Republican who has held the position since 2011, did not run for reelection.

Insurance commissioner

Insurance agent Janice Laws Robinson won the Democratic nomination for the state’s insurance and safety fire commissioner after beating Raphael Baker. Laws Robinson won the same nomination in 2018 but lost.

She will face Republican incumbent John King, who was the first Latino to hold a statewide office after being appointed to the position by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Benjamin Payne contributed to this report.

This story comes to Reporter Newspapers / Atlanta Intown through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.

Riley Bunch | GPB News

Riley Bunch is a public policy reporter at Georgia Public Broadcasting, covering the intersection of government and daily life. Bunch has won awards for both her journalism and photography during her time...