- Georgia's become one of America's busiest battleground states.
- Peach State voters have had to head to the polls 50 times over the last seven years.
- Georgians should expect hotly contested races for the next 10 years, a political scientist said.
ATLANTA, Georgia — The nonstop, make-or-break elections Georgia's voters have recently gone through finally got to one of Christie Ellis' friends the other day.
"She said, 'I'm so glad for this to be over for a little while. Because I need to enjoy some of my summer,'" the 50-year-old Gordon County resident told Insider of the much-needed breather they were both looking forward to once the polarizing Republican gubernatorial primary finally came to an end.
They got their wish on Tuesday once incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp soundly defeated his Donald Trump–backed challenger, David Perdue, by 50 points. Kemp will next face off against Democrat Stacey Abrams — who back in 2018 he beat by a hair more than 1% (around 55,000 votes) — in a highly-anticipated rematch this fall.
Given that major races in Georgia are won with less than 5% of the overall vote, Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University, urged everyone in the Peach State to strap in for at least another decade of contentious contests.
"I think we just have to get used to being a battleground for the next few cycles. And get used to the fact that races are going to be heavily contested. And that neither Democrats or Republicans can phone it in — especially at the statewide level," Gillespie told Insider.
Narrow victories have seemingly become the norm here in elections for jobs leading the federal government.
Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff beat then-Sen. Perdue by just over 1% in their January 2021 runoff, while Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock beat then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler by 2% the same day. Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by less than a quarter of 1% — just shy of 12,000 votes — according to Georgia's official recount of the 2020 presidential election. In 2016, Trump beat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton here by 5%.
Add in the frequency of such high-profile races, and things get even more stressful.
Since 2016, Georgians have had to weigh in on 50 elections, including 20 runoff elections, 16 special elections, 10 primary elections, and 4 general elections.
By comparison, voters in the decades-old battleground state of Ohio have only had to turn out for 22 elections since 2016. The Buckeye State, on average, conducts one special, primary, and general election per year according to its publicly available election data.
The 2020 presidential election kicked off Georgia's current 18-month run in the national spotlight, a marathon that's featured Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, two grueling Senate races that helped flip control of the chamber to Democrats, and a primary that saw prominent Republicans like former Vice President Mike Pence parachuting into the state to blunt Trump's revenge campaign against Kemp.
'The stakes get higher every time'
Kathy Price, 78, a resident of eastern Georgia's Richmond County, said she's kept her enthusiasm up over the past few months but is definitely ready to ditch all the drama.
"We're trying to get back to normal on this stuff," she told Insider.
There's no going back for nearby Columbia County resident Lynda Brown, 76, who said friends and family are more engaged than ever these days. She said more people she knows than ever are volunteering on campaigns, speaking out at school board meetings, and running for office themselves.
"The sleeping giant has awakened. And we are pushing back," Brown told Insider. She added that, "The stakes get higher every time. That's why we do not give up."
Austell, Georgia, resident Denny Wilson, 65, predicted that 2022 would be a defining moment for her home state. "I think that this election will prove that Georgia is not as blue as everybody thinks it is," she told Insider.
Wilson, a Black woman from the Atlanta metro area, added that conservatives no longer take anything for granted in Georgia. "Now I think they're woke," Wilson said.
"It's never gonna end," Augusta, Georgia, resident James Carroll, 30, said of the intense scrutiny Georgia has undergone the past few years. And he seems to be okay with that.
"The battleground has to be somewhere. And if it's right here, then we're going to fight right here," Carroll told Insider.
Alpharetta, Georgia resident Eamon Keegan, 36, said that, for better or for worse, his home has become a "perpetual swing state."
"Campaigns are going to be a full-time thing now," Keegan, who told Insider he works as a political consultant, predicted.
None of that bodes well for Newton County resident Tammy Cartledge, 53, who told Insider she mostly finds politics exhausting.
"I don't like a close race," Cartledge said. "I want it to be cut and dry."