Your Guide to the May 21 Elections

A supreme court race in Georgia headlines our next stop on the election calendar. Plus, ideological fault lines among Oregon Democrats, and reelection tests for the officials overseeing a Trump case.
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May 16, 2024
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Members of Georgia Stand-Up and We Vote encourage people to vote in Georgia’s 2022 runoff election for U.S Senate. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)


Four states are holding their regular primaries on Tuesday: Georgia, Kentucky, Idaho, and Oregon. Plus, some Californians are headed to the polls for a special election. 

Here’s your Bolts guide to 25 elections taking place on May 21, from coast to coast.

On the menu? Abortion has become a focal point in a supreme court race in Georgia. Both major parties will choose their nominees in several congressional races that may be key to November’s battle for the U.S. House. And Democratic Party factions face off in a swath of local primaries in Portland.

Also, the Atlanta DA and judge overseeing Donald Trump’s prosecution seek reelection. Oregonians are choosing how to address the blind spots in their state’s handling of voting rights. And Idaho residents will decide on tens of millions of dollars of local levies meant to bolster education.

Be sure to return to this page on election night: We’ll update this page with results. And note that this guide is not exhaustive; it is Bolts’ selection of important races to monitor.

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Federal

GA-03 (GOP primary)

Donald Trump has endorsed former adviser Brian Jack for this open seat in west-central Georgia, and Jack is leaning heavily on the former president’s support. His four rival are compensating by running hard to the right; three of the five candidates in the field indicated they’d support a ban on in vitro fertilization, for instance. At a debate, all candidates said they believed the false claim that Trump won the state in 2020.
OR-03 (Democratic primary)

Democrat Earl Blumenauer is retiring from this blue, Portland-based district. Susheela Jayapal, a former county commissioner who is the sister of Pramila Jayapal, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wants to replace him. Backed by prominent progressives, she also faces heavy opposition from a super PAC tied to AIPAC. She faces Maxine Dexter, a state lawmaker, and Gresham city councilor Eddy Morales, who would be the first openly LGBTQ+ candidate elected to Congress in Oregon.
OR-05 (Democratic primary)

This district hosted one of the tightest races in 2022 when Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer defeated Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner. This fall, it’s likely to again help decide who controls the U.S. House. McLeod-Skinner, a progressive attorney, is running for the Democratic nod again, this time against Janelle Bynum, a lawmaker backed by much of her party’s establishment, including House Democrats’ national campaign committee.
OR-04 and OR-06 (GOP primary)

If Republicans want to grow their U.S. House majority, it’ll go through targeting Democratic incumbents like Val Hoyle in the Fourth District, and Andrea Salinas in the Sixth District. The GOP is choosing its nominees in both. The Oregon Capital Journal reports on the primary in the Fourth District, and The Statesman Journal on the primary in the Sixth.

Special election

CA-20 (runoff)

The GOP will buttress their extraordinarily narrow House majority here no matter the outcome of the special election to replace Kevin McCarthy. Both candidates who moved to this runoff, Vince Fong and Mike Boudreaux, are Republicans. Fong, a lawmaker, has Donald Trump’s endorsement; Boudreaux, a sheriff, is doing his best to channel Trump’s persona on the trail.

Presidential primaries

Kentucky and Oregon will each hold their presidential primaries on Tuesday, May 21, though Joe Biden and Donald Trump have clinched the nominations of their respective primaries. Georgia already held its presidential primaries in March; Idaho Republicans held presidential caucuses in March, and Idaho Democrats will hold presidential caucuses on Thursday, May 23.

Statewide

Georgia supreme court (general election)

Democrat John Barrow, a former member of Congress, tried running for state supreme court four years ago, but the two races he tried running for were outright canceled one after the other due to a loophole in state law. This year, he is challenging Justice Andrew Pinson, a former state solicitor general appointed to the court by Republican Governor Brian Kemp in 2022.

But this time he faces a complaint from a statewide judicial commission, which is faulting him for unduly politicizing the office by campaigning as a defender of abortion rights. Barrow has contrasted himself with Pinson, who as solicitor general was handling Georgia’s litigation activities when the attorney general’s office sided with Mississippi’s effort to strike down Roe v. Wade in 2020. (Note that judicial elections in Georgia are nonpartisan; the May 21 election will decide who holds the seat.)
Across Georgia, Idaho, and Oregon, there are nine other supreme court seats on the ballot this year; but each one features an incumbent running unopposed. In addition, Kentucky has a two-way supreme court race that will only play out in the fall. Our Bolts guide walks you through all of the nation’s supreme court races.

Election administration

Oregon | Secretary of state (Democratic primary)

Often held up as a leader on voting rights, Oregon still has lingering exclusions that keep some people from participating in democracy.

Bolts reported that the leading Democratic candidates to be the state’s chief elections officer are laying out very different approaches for how they’d want to tackle those.
Oregon | Secretary of state (GOP primary)

The leading Oregon Republicans running for secretary of state say they want to end mail voting, the Oregon Capital Chronicle reports. State Senator Dennis Linthicum, who has raised the most money by far, has made ungrounded claims of “unparalleled voter fraud.”

Other statewide offices

Oregon | Attorney general (Democratic primary)

With Democrat Ellen Rosenblum retiring after twelve years as Oregon attorney general, Democrats are choosing between Dan Rayfield, who served as state Speaker as recently as two months ago, and Shaina Maxey Pomerantz, who leads the nonprofit Race Talks. Rayfield, who helped negotiate the measure rolling back the state’s 2020 initiative decriminalizing drug possession, has a huge fundraising lead

(The winner will then face Will Lathrop, a former prosecutor who is running unopposed in the GOP primary.)
Oregon | Treasurer (Democratic primary)

Jeff Gudman was the GOP nominee in Oregon’s last two elections for treasurer, in 2016 and 2020, losing each time to Democrat Tobias Read. Gudman is running for the same office again this year—but this time as a Democrat, a safer bet in this blue-leaning state.

With Read barred from seeking reelection due to term limits, Gudman faces state Senator Elizabeth Steiner in the primary. Among key issues is the future of Read’s plan to divest Oregon from fossil fuels, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. (The winner will then face state Senator Brian Boquist, who is running unopposed in the GOP primary.)

State and Local

Georgia | Atlanta DA (Democratic primary)

Fani Willis, the Atlanta DA who is prosecuting Donald Trump for election interference, faces a primary challenge from Christian Wise Smith, a local lawyer. Wise Smith says he supports her case against Trump but has criticized her choices, including her hiring outside attorney Nathan Wade.

Wise Smith has also faulted Willis’ decision to use RICO statutes in a high-profile case against teachers; Willis has also used RICO charges against Trump. Wise Smith already ran for DA in 2020 on a reform platform, with promises like decriminalizing drug possession. (A Trump lawyer, Courtney Kramer, is running unopposed in the GOP primary.)
Oregon | Multnomah County DA (nonpartisan)

Mike Schmidt, who became Portland’s DA in 2020 after running on a reform platform, has since both aligned with and broken with local progressives. He now seeks a second term against Nathan Vasquez, a deputy prosecutor in his office. Running with support from police unions, Vasquez says crime in Portland demands more punitive solutions; Schmidt has kept up his argument that dialing up incarceration hasn’t helped public safety while also shifting to tout his support for cracking down on drug use.

Other local and county offices

Georgia | Fulton County Superior Court

Scott McAfee, the Atlanta judge presiding over Trump’s election interference case, is seeking a full term, two years after he was appointed to the bench by Governor Brian Kemp. He faces Robert Patillo, a civil rights attorney. A self-described conservative Democrat, Patillo also says he’s running to improve the local criminal legal system for defendants.
Oregon | Multnomah County commission (Districts 1 and 2)

The local government of Multnomah County, home to the city of Portland, is in for a major upheaval with three of its five commissioners retiring. The Oregonian reports that the balance of power will likely come down to in the first district and second district, where business-backed groups are supporting a set of moderate candidates, and progressive groups and public sector unions are backing another.
Oregon | Eugene mayor

Mayor Lucy Vinis is retiring, and the campaign to replace her has been focused on affordable housing and homelessness. The leading candidates are running on somewhat similar plans to increase the housing stock, while highlighting their different professional and personal experiences with the issue, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

Legislative primaries

Georgia | HD56 (Democratic primary)

State Representative Mesha Mainor last year switched into the GOP, despite representing a heavily Democratic district in Atlanta. Now she’s running for reelection as a Republican, and she is unopposed in the GOP primary. Five challengers are running for the Democratic nod, one of whom served time in jail for allegedly stalking Mainor, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Georgia | SD40 (Democratic primary)

Sally Harrell, a Democratic state senator in this Atlanta-based district, abstained on a measure that added antisemitism to the state’s hate crimes law, saying that other groups including Muslims should be afforded similar protections. She is now challenged by David Lubin, the father of an Israeli soldier who was killed while on duty in November, who takes issue with her decision.
Oregon | HD8 and HD33 (Democratic primary)

The battle between progressive and centrist Democrats is playing out for several legislative seats where an incumbent lawmaker is retiring. In Eugene-based Eighth District, a PAC aligned with business interests is going after a candidate backed by progressive lawmakers. In Portland-based 33rd District, candidates Pete Grabiel and Shannon Jones Isadore took contrasting positions over Oregon’s decision to restore criminal penalties for drug possession this year (Grabiel supported it, Isadore opposed it).
Oregon | HD12 (GOP primary)

When Oregon passed a law to protect abortion and gender-affirming care last year, one Republican lawmaker joined Democrats to support it: Charlie Conrad. Now Conrad faces an intraparty challenge from businessman Darin Harbick, who is taking issue with that vote.
Oregon | HD35 (Democratic primary)

State Representative Farrah Chaichi has charted a dissonant path in the legislature on criminal justice. The Democrat was the only lawmaker last year to oppose a bill that criminalized possession of small amounts of fentanyl; this year she again opposed a measure to rollback the 2020 initiative decriminalizing drug possession. She faces a challenge from Casey Zimmerman, who works in the aerospace industry.

Ballot measures

Idaho | School district levies

Across the state of Idaho, voters are voting on local levies meant to raise tens of millions of dollars for school districts, from funding for extracurricular activities to supplies. KTVB has the list of referendums.

These are on the ballot now rather than alongside other local races Idaho holds in March and August due to a new law that required that school levy measures coincide with the statewide primaries and general election; this is so that turnout is higher for these races, supporters say.
Oregon | Portland: Gas tax renewal

Portland’s gas tax, adopted in 2016 and renewed for the first time in 2020, has raised $150 million for the city over that period, paying for various street and road maintenance projects. It’s now up for renewal again.
Oregon | Crook County secession

Twelve conservative counties have voted to secede from the state of Oregon in recent years, frustrated by the state’s Democratic governance. Will Crook County make it 13 on Tuesday? These local referendums have no force, though they’ve been showcasing the geographic divides between eastern Oregon and the rest of the state.