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Georgia voters must fill House and Senate openings in 2 packed local elections

Voters in a west Georgia state Senate district and a state House seat near Augusta are going to the polls Tuesday to choose replacements for lawmakers who resigned.

In state Senate District 30, Republican Mike Dugan stepped down to run for Congress. Republican candidates to replace him include former state Rep. Tim Bearden of Carrollton, real estate agent Renae Bell of Tallapoosa and consultant Robert “Bob” Smith. The lone Democrat is Ashley Kecskes Godwin of Carrollton. The district covers all of Haralson County and parts of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties.

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Bearden was elected to the state House four times before former Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him as director of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. Bearden is now the government affairs manager for a billboard company. Bell is a real estate agent, the wife of Haralson County school Superintendent Jerry Bell, and the former chair of the Greater Haralson Chamber of Commerce.

In state House District 125, Rep, Barry Fleming stepped down to become a superior court judge. Republicans running in the House race include conservative commentator C.J. Pearson of Grovetown, Columbia County Commissioner and car wash owner Gary Richardson of Evans and farmer James Steed of Grovetown. Also on the ballot are Democrat Kay Turner, a Grovetown cosmetologist, and Libertarian John Turpish, a Grovetown software developer. The district covers parts of Columbia and McDuffie counties.

The House race has shaped up as a battle between Pearson and Richardson. Pearson overcame a residency challenge while winning endorsements from hard-right conservatives and campaigning on a Trump aligned-platform. The 21-year-old Pearson has been opposed by Gov. Brian Kemp’s political organization after Pearson helped manage the primary campaign of Kemp challenger Vernon Jones in 2022. Richardson, who can’t run again for county commission because of term limits, is also quite conservative but has run a lower-key campaign, touting his experience in public service.

Members of all parties are running together on the same ballot. If no one wins a majority in the races, the top two candidates would advance to a runoff on March 12, the same day as Georgia’s presidential primary.

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