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Many eyes will be on Gwinnett this election

LAWRENCEVILLE - Compared to two years ago, ballots in Gwinnett may be slightly bare this year.

While the last election sent incumbents scrambling and challengers lining up for opportunities, this political season offers only a handful of local races with strong challenges and the potential to drive voters to the polls.

But despite the drought of candidates, political scientist Adam Stone said 2006 could still be a decisive year in Gwinnett politics.

It could even bring the county to new heights in the statewide political spectrum.

"At the state level this is a big test for Republicans," he said. "Can Sonny hold onto his seat? Can the Republicans hold onto the General Assembly?"

Several races could hinge on the suburban county that holds more than 700,000 people.

As a Republican stronghold, it could be key for Gov. Sonny Perdue's chances of winning a second term after he became the first Republican elected since Reconstruction in 2002, Stone said.

As Ralph Reed's home county, it's also essential in the Christian Coalition's founding director's chances of winning the GOP nomination to become lieutenant governor.

Stone said the county could also be key in one of the Democratic races this year.

With Mark Taylor doing well among south Georgians in the primary race to challenge Perdue, Cathy Cox has to do well among suburban Democrats to have a chance against him, Stone said.

Two years, Democrats made a point of challenging nearly every local race but stopped well short of outstripping the GOP for bragging rights in the increasingly diverse county.

Some people still say the demographics could push Gwinnett to the left on the political spectrum, but Republicans are still holding strong, Stone said.

"We don't know what the future is in Gwinnett," he said.

2006 may not hold the answers, but it could hold the political livelihood of dozens of candidates.

Beginning today, the Gwinnett Daily Post will take a look at the candidates and the issues on the 2006 primary ballots.