While some will succeed incumbents who retired, much of the turnover can be linked to the dozens of ambitious legislators have set their sights on higher offices during a wide-open Georgia election season.
In addition to a U.S. Senate seat and all 13 U.S. House seats, all of the state's constitutional offices are up for grabs — a proposition too hard for some at the Capitol to resist.
In addition to others former bot Senator Preston Smith the Senate and Rob Teilhet from the House are seeking the attorney general post.
"Every office but the lieutenant governor has no incumbent running, which in itself is pretty unprecedented," said Georgia State University political science professor Steve Anthony. "One of the old adages in politics is 'timing is everything.' There's a lot of opportunity this year and people are hoping they can take advantage of it."
Anthony — who served as chief of staff to Tom Murphy, the longest-serving House speaker in any U.S. state legislature — said change at the Capitol is hardly unusual. Lawmakers routinely rotate out after a few terms, choosing to retire or losing a re-election bid.
"It is a tremendous sacrifice," said Rep. Tyrone Brooks, D-Atlanta, who was first elected in 1980. "It is a full-time responsibility. When the session ends, you're still working for your constituents every day."
For others, the desire to leave can mean switching chambers or using their office as a stepping stone to higher office.
"It is very tempting for a lot of folks to look to higher office, especially people who have been there for awhile," said Sen. Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone. "These guys are public servants and they want to continue their careers serving and try something else."
Chance, who was first elected in 2004 and is running unopposed for re-election, said incoming freshmen will face a steep learning curve in January, and both chambers will lose some institutional knowledge with the departure of veteran lawmakers.
In all, 15 state House and Senate members are running for the U.S. House, and 16 House and Senate members are running for statewide offices in the July 20 primary — about one of every eight state lawmakers.
Nathan Deal's decision to leave Congress and run for governor drew three state House members to seek the job: Lee Hawkins, Bobby Reese and Tom Graves. Graves will finish the remainder of Deal's term after beating Hawkins in a June 8 special election runoff, but must win a July 20 primary and the November general election to hold the seat for a new term.
In the statewide contests:
— Jeff Chapman from the Senate and Randal Mangham and Minority Leader DuBose Porter from the House are running for governor instead of seeking re-election;
— Seth Harp from the Senate and Ralph Hudgens and Tom Knox from the House are vying for insurance commissioner;
— Gail Buckner from the Senate and Georganna Sinkfield from the House are running for secretary of state;
— John Douglas from the Senate and Jeff May from the House are candidates for the Public Service Commission;
— Sen. J.B. Powell is running for agriculture commissioner;
— Rep. Mark Butler is running for labor commissioner.
Most lawmakers are returning next year, and most have a clear path back to their seats. The majority face no challenge in their party primary or are unopposed altogether.
With redistricting in the plans ahead of the 2012 elections, more legislative turnover is likely as lawmakers evaluate what the new maps will mean for their political fortunes.