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Much at stake at polls today

ATLANTA - Fewer than half of Georgia's nearly 4.4 million registered voters are expected to show up at the polls today to take part in Election Day.

But those who do can expect to spend a bit longer in the voting booth than they did during this summer's primaries and runoffs.

The general election ballot is chock full of choices to be made, from a long list of statewide officials including governor to members of Congress and the General Assembly to county offices.

In Gwinnett, voters will decide if Commissioner Kevin Kenerly gets a fourth term in office or if Democrat John Kenney will get a try.

Lawrenceville residents will decide who the next mayor will be on the day that Mayor Bobby Sikes is laid to rest after losing a battle with cancer.

Today's polls will decide whether a 1-cent sales tax will continue to support the building of new classrooms and if the county can use a new tool for revitalization.

Liquor-by-the-drink referenda are scheduled for Norcross and Grayson, along with Norcross and Lawrenceville council elections and Loganville mayor and council races.

Voters across the state also will decide the fates of three constitutional amendments and six statewide referendum questions.

On Monday, Gwinnett Elections Director Lynn Ledford said she had fielded more calls than expected, but she still predicted a turnout of about 30 percent.

"It's supposed to be rainy and cold and a lot of people won't go out in that," she said.

At the top of the ticket is Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, who faces Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor - the Democratic nominee - and Libertarian Garrett Michael Hayes.

With Taylor running for governor, the lieutenant governor's post is vacant. A three-way contest for the seat pits Democratic former state Rep. Jim Martin against Republican state Sen. Casey Cagle and Libertarian Allen Buckley.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox also left her position in an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. As a result, Republican Karen Handel, Democrat Gail Buckner and Libertarian Kevin Madsen are vying to fill that vacancy.

Three Democratic incumbents are seeking re-election as Georgia's attorney general, labor commissioner and agriculture commissioner.

Thurbert Baker, Mike Thurmond and Tommy Irvin are pitted against Republican challengers Perry McGuire, Brent Brown and Gary Black, respectively.

The Libertarian Party did not field candidates for attorney general or labor commissioner but have Jack Cashin running for agriculture commissioner.

Two Republican incumbents are defending the posts of insurance commissioner and state school superintendent. The GOP's John Oxendine is being challenged by Democrat Guy Drexinger for insurance commissioner.

Republican School Superintendent Kathy Cox faces Democrat Denise Majette and Libertarian David Chastain.

Two Georgia Public Service Commission seats are up for grabs. In District 3, Democratic incumbent David Burgess is being opposed by Republican Chuck Eaton and Libertarian Paul MacGregor.

In District 5, GOP incumbent Stan Wise faces Democrat Dawn Randolph and Libertarian Kevin Cherry.

While PSC members represent districts, they are elected statewide.

One of four Georgia Supreme Court seats up for election this year is being contested. Incumbent Carol Hunstein is being opposed by Mike Wiggins.

All four state Court of Appeals judges up for re-election are running unopposed.

Because of Georgia's new congressional map, Gwinnett County is divided into only two congressional districts, down from four in the last two elections.

U.S. Rep. John Linder, R-Duluth, is being challenged by Lawrenceville Democrat Allan Burns in the 7th Congressional District, which includes most of Gwinnett and all of Barrow County.

In the DeKalb County-dominated 4th District, which includes western Gwinnett, Democrat Hank Johnson and Republican Catherine Davis are vying for an open seat. Johnson defeated Rep. Cynthia McKinney in an August runoff to win the Democratic nomination.

Georgia voters also are being asked to decide three constitutional amendments. One would require a vote of elected officials before a government could use its power of "eminent domain" to condemn private property and, even then, limit the practice to projects of public use.

Another amendment would establish in the state Constitution the public's right to hunt and fish.

The third would allow the Legislature to dedicate revenues raised from certain special license plates to specific purposes, including nonprofit agencies.

The six referendum questions would provide tax exemptions to various groups, including charitable agencies, veterans groups, senior citizens and surviving spouses of homeowners who had been granted property tax exemptions, as long as they continue residing at the same address.

The polls will be open from

7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

- Staff Writer Camie Young contributed to this report.