By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Incredibly close races down the ballot in Georgia left several races still hanging the morning after the polls closed, with several statewide seats and two congressional races too tight to declare a winner.
Democrats, shut out of holding any statewide office in Georgia since 2010, put up fierce challenges Tuesday beyond the showdown for governor between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Open seats for secretary of state, insurance commissioner and two seats on the Public Service Commission were too close to call early Wednesday.
Meanwhile, two Republican members of Congress were still waiting to learn their fates after facing strong Democratic challengers in metro Atlanta districts long considered safe for the GOP. Georgia's remaining congressmen, eight Republicans and four Democrats, all cruised to re-election.
Meanwhile, the GOP held onto the offices lieutenant governor, attorney general, state school superintendent and commissioners of agriculture and labor.
Here's a look at some of the high-profile contests beyond the gubernatorial battle.
Races were too close to call to decide who will fill the statewide offices given up by Kemp, Georgia's GOP secretary of state, as well as Republican Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.
Former Democratic congressman John Barrow, who lost his House seat in 2014, was close to forcing a runoff with for secretary of state with Republican state Rep. Brad Raffensperger, who hoped to keep the office of Georgia's elections chief in GOP hands. Libertarian Smythe Duval's presence on the ballot made it possible nobody would surpass 50 percent of the vote as required to win.
The race to succeed Hudgens, who opted not to run again, was also extremely close. Republican Jim Black, Hudgens' former chief of staff, faced Democratic insurance agent Janice Laws. Also in the race was Libertarian Donnie Foster.
Republican Geoff Duncan will succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who gave up his office to run unsuccessfully for governor.
Duncan, a former state lawmaker, defeated Democratic businesswoman Sarah Riggs Amico in the race for the No. 2 statewide office. Duncan will be only the second Republican to hold the job since it debuted on the ballot in 1946. Democrats last won the office in 2002.
Republican Attorney General Chris Carr won his first election test since the governor appointed him two years ago to fill the unexpired term of his predecessor, Sam Olens.
Unofficial returns showed Carr defeated Democrat Charlie Bailey, a former Fulton County prosecutor who has argued Carr lacks the legal experience the job demands.
GOP state School Superintendent Richard Woods won a second term against Democrat Otha Thornton Jr., who was the first black man to serve as president of the National PTA.
Republican Labor Commissioner Mark Butler defeated Democrat Richard Keatley, a former professor of French and Italian. And Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black won re-election over Democratic software developer Fred Swann.
Two congressional seats in metro Atlanta also showed extremely thin vote margins separating Democratic challengers from Republican House members in suburban districts once considered safe for the GOP.
Democrats saw a possible opening from shifting demographics and voters disaffected with Donald Trump.
In the 6th District north of Atlanta, Republican Rep. Karen Handel faced Democratic gun-control activist Lucy McBath, whose teenage son was fatally shot six years ago in Florida. It was Handel's second race since last year, when she won the House seat in a grueling special election against Democrat Jon Ossoff, who spent $30 million on the race.
In the neighboring 7th District, GOP Rep. Rob Woodall faced Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, a college professor at Georgia State University who outpaced the incumbent congressman in fundraising. Bourdeaux raised more than $1.9 million, nearly double Woodall's total. However, the four-term Republican congressman has won each of his prior elections with no less than 60 percent of the vote.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
Two Republican members of Georgia's utility-regulating Public Service Commission were struggling to defend their seats in neck-and-neck campaigns run amid criticism over escalating costs for building two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta.
GOP incumbent Chuck Eaton faced Democrat Lindy Miller and Libertarian Ryan Graham for the commission's District 3 seat in metro Atlanta. And Republican commissioner Tricia Pridemore was being challenged by Democrat Dawn Randolph and Libertarian John Turpish for the PSC's District 5 seat in western Georgia.
The PSC has come under fire for its December vote authorizing construction to continue at Plant Vogtle, a decision made before Pridemore was appointed in February. The project is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, raising concerns that ratepayers will get saddled with the added cost.
ELSEWHERE IN THE U.S. HOUSE
GOP Rep. Tom Graves easily won re-election in his congressional district that strongly favors Republican candidates. This year, his Democratic opponent was further handicapped by having to spend much of the campaign in jail.
Graves defeated Democrat Steve Foster, who was sentenced by a judge in August to six months in jail for drunken driving. Foster's attorney, Richard Murray, confirmed the incarcerated candidate was released Tuesday. Foster refused to quit the 14th District race in northwest Georgia. The misdemeanor DUI conviction didn't disqualify him from the ballot.
Six other GOP congressmen — Reps. Buddy Carter, Jody Hice, Rick Allen, Doug Collins, Barry Loudermilk and Drew Ferguson — all overcame Democratic challengers.
Three Democratic congressmen — Reps. Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson and David Scott — also defeated opponents.
Democratic Rep. John Lewis and GOP Rep. Austin Scott were unopposed.