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Our Thoughts: Election season just heating up
Our Thoughts - OPINON

Congratulations to Sen.-elect Brian Strickland, who won a special election Tuesday to represent about half of Newton County.

Strickland succeeds Rick Jeffares, who is focusing on his run for lieutenant governor in the upcoming Republican primary.

The GOP and Democratic primaries on May 22 will be a landmark day in the state this year, as it sets the tone for what will be a grueling run-up to the Nov. 6 general election.

Gov. Nathan Deal has been an effective and perhaps surprisingly popular leader for Georgia since taking office seven years ago this week. Despite winning in a close and ugly race against former Gov. Roy Barnes, Deal has been a unifying force when needed. The state is in better financial shape than when he started, and the main job for his successor seems to be not messing up what Deal’s created.

Major candidates for governor include Democrats Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans, and Republicans Casey Cagle, Hunter Hill, Brian Kemp and Clay Tippins. So far there’s been no real separation among them.

Expect a brisk session for the General Assembly this year, because of fundraising laws that restrict lawmakers during the term. So while we’ll get plenty of political red meat, maybe there will be a little less action — pass the budget, avoid major controversy and get home.

Once the dust settles from the primary, expect a Republican runoff on July 24. (Name recognition and a fundraising advantage that come from being lieutenant governor seem to favor Cagle to lock down one of these spots, but we shall see.)

Then it will be a slog to the November general election. For seemingly a generation now, Democrats have salivated over the prospect of turning Georgia blue again, or at least a deeper shade of purple. They got closer with Jason Carter in 2014 than Barnes in 2010, so the thought will be that Georgia voters will warm up to Abrams or Evans, both former legislators.

Although he’s been in the Senate for seven years, Jeffares is running a bit of an outsider’s campaign for lieutenant governor against Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer. They’re believed to be the top two candidates in the field to succeed Cagle.

The ballot also includes an open race for secretary of state, as Kemp runs for governor. Deal’s hand-picked attorney general, Chris Carr, will be running for a full term.

We’ll hear a lot about who’s the true conservative in Georgia, or who can get the engine of the state running smoothly, in the top offices. At the local level, we’ll have about half the seats on both the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education up for election, and of course those offices are where the rubber meets the road.

All these races deserve your attention. We intend to devote resources like never before to the entire process — qualifying, campaign funding, candidates’ local visits, forums, policy statements and the vote-counting process. And, we’ll give you all the information you need to know about how to make sure your vote counts.

It’s going to be an interesting political year. Keep reading.

Our Thoughts is the opinion of The Covington News’ editorial board, which includes Editor and Publisher David Clemons and Managing Editor Jackie Gutknecht.