Who’s up for Georgia’s 2026 governor’s race?

The GOP’s Burt Jones, Chris Carr and Brad Raffensperger could be challengers. Among Democrats, who knows?
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 5:46 AM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Georgia’s 2026 gubernatorial race is underway.

Brian Kemp was re-elected Tuesday to a second term as governor. That means in four years, the Peach State will be electing a new governor, as Kemp is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term.

So who are some potential candidates for West Paces Ferry Road’s most recognizable mansion?

Republicans

Burt Jones, soon-to-be Georgia’s new lieutenant governor

“Pretty much every individual who’s served as lieutenant governor has seriously considered a governor’s run,” said Dr. Charles Bullock of the University of Georgia, “and virtually all of them have done so.”

Not all of them has been successful, however. The last lieutenant governor to become governor was Democrat Zell Miller, who served four terms as lieutenant governor from 1975 to 1991 before winning the state’s top job himself.

“Jones will see his new office as a stepping stone,” Bullock said.

However, Jones, a middle Georgia Republican lawmaker, continues facing allegations to have signed on as an elector for then-President Donald Trump in his efforts to challenge the state’s election results.

Newly re-elected Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

Raffensperger was at the center of one of the nation’s most violent political storms in recent history. Two years ago, Raffensperger repeatedly rebuffed Trump’s efforts and refuted claims of widespread voter fraud in Georgia. Joe Biden became the first Democratic White House candidate to carry Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992, winning the Peach State by .23%.

Georgia was also the only Deep South state to vote Democratic in the 2020 presidential election.

Raffensperger won a crowded, May 24 GOP secretary of state primary by defeating, among others, the Trump-endorsed candidacy of Jody Hice. Earlier this year, Raffensperger testified before the Democrat-organized House Select Committee investigataing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump’s claims of 2020 election fraud “were false.”

The committee also focused on a phone call that Raffensperger received on Jan. 2 from Trump, in which he asked Georgia’s top elections official “to find 11,780 votes” in order to overturn Georgia’s results.

“Raffensperger has made quite a name for himself,” said Dr. Ben Taylor of Kennesaw State University. “He’s made upholding Georgia’s election integrity a part of his platform, and he’s gotten a lot of good will among independents and even some Democrats.”

Others who may consider a run: Attorney General Chris Carr, who was heading to re-election to a second, full-term on Tuesday over Democrat Jen Jordan., and former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who has been using her time since losing to Warnock last year to remain active in politics/

Democrats

Abrams loss on Tuesday was her second in four years. The former state lawmakers has been out of office since 2017, but it’s not inconceivable she won’t try for the governor’s mansion a third time in 2026.

“Newt Gingrich lost twice before being elected to Congress in his third try,” Bullock said. “There was some thought that Abrams would have stepped aside this year, knowing how hard it is to beat an incumbent. If she still wants to run for president at some time in the future, she might come forward again in four years.”

“Four years in politics is an eternity,” Taylor said. “A lot depends on who is president in 2026. If there is a Republican elected president in 2024, there might be a lot more engagement among Democrats.”

In 2018, Stacey Evans challenged Abrams for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, a race she lost. Since then, she’s been elected to the state House in Cobb County’s 57th district.

Charlie Bailey also suffered a second defeat Tuesday, failing to become Georgia’s next lieutenant governor. In 2018, he also lost an attempt to become Attorney General.