It's election day in Georgia, and the big question is whether the first competitive governor primary race in eight years will bring more voters to the polls.
Here in the northwest corner of the state, don't count on it.
In 2010, 14 candidates fought for the nicest office under the Gold Dome, with names including Nathan Deal and Karen Handel and Roy Barnes on the ballot. But in this part of the state — Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Gordon, Murray, Walker and Whitfield counties — only 18 percent of registered voters drove to the polls.
That's about on par with the local primary races in those seven counties in 2014 — 15 percent turnout — and 2016 — 19 percent.
The outlier of this decade is 2012, when one in three registered voters showed up for the primary. That was not the result of a high-profile statewide race or a presidential bump, as the primary for that race was four months earlier. Instead, local fights made up the big-name races that year. Catoosa County had an open sheriff's seat. Then-Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell faced a strong opponent.
So did Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin, two years after his office's failed prosecution of kindergarten teacher Tonya Craft earned national headlines.
This year, the race to take Deal's post has drawn plenty of attention. There are five Republican candidates and two Democrats, including Ringgold native Stacey Evans. Tonight, the results will show whether these fights brought more locals to the ballot box, unlike in 2010.
Otherwise, there are still plenty of races to watch in North Georgia.
There are two state Legislature seats open in this region. In state House District 1, incumbent John Deffenbaugh, 73, will face Colton Moore. Deffenbaugh, R-Lookout Mountain, has been in office since 2013. Moore is 24, graduated from the University of Georgia in 2016 and works as an auctioneer. District 1 encompasses Dade County and western Walker County, including McLemore's Cove, Chickamauga and Rossville.
In state Senate District 54, incumbent Chuck Payne faces Scott Tidwell. Payne, a longtime Republican volunteer in Whitfield County, took office in 2017. Tidwell is a pastor and assistant funeral home director. District 54 includes Whitfield and Murray counties, as well as parts of Gordon and Pickens counties.
For the first time in at least two decades, a sitting judge in North Georgia faces a challenger. Ralph Van Pelt Jr., appointed to the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit superior court bench in 1996, will face Melissa Hise. Hise founded Four Points, a supervised visitation center in the area. The circuit covers all of Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties.
In Dade County, voters will decide whether to add a new 1 percent sales tax to cover road pavings, bridge repairs and other infrastructure projects. The transportation special purpose local option sales tax referendum failed when it was on the ballot in November, getting 43 percent of 1,011 votes. Dade County Executive Ted Rumley said the commissioners can cut $680,000 out of the general fund now budgeted for transportation projects if voters approve the new tax.
Also in Dade County, Republicans Jane Dixon and Lamar Lowery will face each other for the District 1 county commission seat. Current commissioner Mitchell Smith is not running. The winner will face Democrat Patrick Hickey in the November general election.
The county's District 2 seat features a crowded race, with incumbent Scottie Pittman facing challengers Michael Scott, Phillip Hartline and Warren Johnson. There is no Democratic candidate.
On the county's school board, incumbent Cindy Shaw faces Daniel Case in District 1, and incumbent Jennifer Hartline faces Larry Williams in District 2. In the District 1 race, the winner will face Democratic candidate Ronald Baldwin in the November general election.
In Catoosa County, incumbent District 2 Commissioner Bobby Winters faces Chuck Harris. Incumbent District 4 Commissioner Ray Johnson, meanwhile, faces Charlie Stephens.
On the county's school board, District 4 incumbent David Moeller faces Brad Haven.
In Gordon County, Post 5 board of education incumbent Nancy Barnette faces Kacee Smith. Post 7 board of education incumbent Larry Massey Jr. faces Eddie Hall. All four candidates are Republicans, and no Democrats registered to run.
In Murray County, District 6 board of education incumbent Heath Jones faces Celeste Bargeron. Both are Republicans, and no Democrat is running.
Where to vote:View
In Whitfield County, District 1 Commissioner Barry Robbins faces challenger Mike Cowan in the Republican primary. There are no qualified Democrats in the race.
What to bring
First-time voters must provide their Social Security numbers and a valid ID, which can include a driver's license, a passport, a government ID or several other options. For more information, visit the Georgia secretary of state's website at www.sos.ga.gov.
If you are not a first-time voter, you will still need to bring a valid ID.
When, where to vote
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To find your specific polling location, visit the secretary of state's My Voter Page: www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. If you are registered to vote, it will ask you to type in your first initial, last name, county and date of birth.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @LetsJett.