Middle Georgia lawmaker Patty Bentley usually gives straight answers to political questions.

But Bentley, a Butler Democrat, enjoys playing dodge ball when asked to name her favorite contestant in next year's gubernatorial race.

"Stacey," she says, as if that answer clears the air and underscores her unwavering support for the person she considers the best to hold the state's top elected office.

But there are two Staceys in the governor's race. Both, like Bentley, are Democrats who served in the Georgia House of Representatives. Bentley worked with both of them during the five years she's held the District 139 seat.

One of them, Stacey Abrams, served as House Minority Leader until last month when she resigned her seat to devote all her energies to her gubernatorial campaign.

The other is Stacey Evans, a Smyrna attorney. She reluctantly left the podium at a progressive conference recently when protesters chanted "support black women." Evans is white, Abrams black.

Abrams and Evans are the only announced Democratic candidates for the position in next year's gubernatorial race.

On the Republican side, however, five candidates have made clear their plans to seek the job. Three of them now hold state offices. They are Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Senator Michael Williams. Meanwhile, Hunter Hill resigned his state Senate seat last month to spend more time on his campaign.

The other GOP candidate is Clay Tippins. He wants everyone to know that he doesn't hold public office and is the only outsider in the race. Tippins is a tech executive and former Navy SEAL.

Most of the candidates are spending time traveling the state and offering themselves for news media interviews wherever possible. Hill, for example, toured Middle Georgia Tuesday and stopped by media outlets in Macon to pitch his candidacy.

Cagle is headed to Macon Thursday to discuss the upcoming legislative session and talk about his plans if elected governor next year.

As lieutenant governor, Cagle's campaign time will be shortened in January when the General Assembly convenes for its 40-day legislative session. Cagle presides over the Senate.

The other candidates are expected to make Middle Georgia campaign stops before they meet in next springs gubernatorial primary election. The primary winners will meet in the November 2018 general election.

Current Gov. Nathan Deal is term limited and can't seek re-election.

Meanwhile, Bentley probably will attend the rallies whenever a Stacey campaigns in the midstate. She's also expected to vote for a Stacey in the general election. But she's not going to say which Stacey she wants on that November ballot.