Last year’s bitter race for a Sandy Springs state House seat, which became a courtroom drama of criminal allegations and a libel lawsuit, could see a rematch as Republican Alex Kaufman has filed to challenge incumbent Democrat Josh McLaurin in 2020.

State Rep. Josh McLaurin.

But there may be Republican primary competition first in the House District 51 race, as another Republican, Grant McGarry, has filed as well.

The district includes Sandy Springs’ panhandle and part of its north end area, along with parts of Roswell and Johns Creek.

McLaurin, a Sandy Springs attorney and political newcomer, eked out a surprise victory in last year’s election as part of a suburban “blue wave,” winning a seat long held by Wendell Willard, a Republican stalwart who helped found the city and served as its city attorney. Kaufman, a Roswell attorney, lost that race after supporting state party claims that McLaurin did not qualify under residency requirements to run for the seat. The debate descended into campaign mailers describing McLaurin as under investigation for “criminal” activities, and the Democrat responded with a libel lawsuit.

Now Kaufman wants a rematch.

Alex Kaufman.

“This district deserves better than the incumbent because he has been ineffective in the General Assembly when it comes to representing north Fulton County,” Kaufman said in a press release. “I ran in 2018 on a message of fiscal responsibility, education reform and common sense solutions to economic redevelopment and our traffic crisis– and that has not changed.”

McLaurin said he welcomed Kaufman’s challenge.

“As I’ve said before, I think that contested races are good for democracy,” McLaurin said. “Voters should have a choice. Alex is performing a service by giving voters a choice again.”

McGarry, a Roswell resident who operates a tree care business, formally announced a run on April 30. According to his website, he is a U.S. Army Ranger veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and a former security contractor Iraq who holds an MBA from Emory University.

Grant McGarry.

“I am running for office because I have the leadership and passion needed to stand up for this community,” said McGarry in a press release. “The residents of District 51 need a real leader who will be an advocate for public safety, local businesses and responsible economic growth. Above all, we need a representative at the state capitol who will put this community first, not selfish ambition or petty politics.”

Update: This story has been updated with the campaign announcement of Grant McGarry.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.