Republican Candidates Face Runoff in Race to be Conservative

In the second biggest electoral surprise of the decade, Georgia voters opted to place former Republican Secretary of State Karen Handel in an August 10th runoff with former 9th District Congressman Nathan Deal.

Until about a week ago State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine had led the field of seven candidates throughout the 18 months preceding yesterday?s election.  Oxendine was one of the few candidates to ever run a statewide race in Georgia as a self-proclaimed frontrunner.  He had also led the pack in fundraising throughout the election cycle.

Handel appeared to have successfully positioned herself as a reformer.  Sarah Palin?s Facebook endorsement just one week before the primary seemed to signal to disgruntled and frustrated voters that Handel was the candidate most likely to shake things up.  Handel?s connection with this block of voters is certainly paradoxical, given that she is very close to sitting Governor Perdue and is said to be his handpicked choice to be the next Governor.

Georgia voters can expect visits by both Palin and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on behalf of Handel during what will most assuredly be a very heated runoff campaign.  Deal goes into the runoff with the support of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The breakdown of yesterday?s vote in the Republican Gubernatorial Primary follows.

Karen Handel - 231,549 - 34.1%
Nathan Deal - 155,672 - 22.9%
Eric Johnson - 136,498 - 20.1%
John W. Oxendine - 114,941 - 16.9%
Jeff Chapman - 20,561 - 3.0%
Ray McBerry - 17,121 - 2.5%
Otis Putnam - 2,538 - 0.4%
Democrats Hand Former Governor Nomination

Yesterday Georgia voters gave Roy Barnes a resounding victory in the first step of what may be the former Governor?s political comeback.  In a crowded field of seven candidates that included four other political veterans, Barnes received his party?s nomination outright with 65.8% of the vote cast.  The second place finisher was Attorney General Thurbert Baker who garnered 22% of the vote.

After having spent some $20 million in the State?s most expensive campaign ever eight years ago, Barnes lost to State Senator Sonny Perdue.  That election surprised everyone including the underfunded Perdue.

This year Barnes? aggressive media campaign successfully tapped into the sentiments of the unemployed, teachers and the business community which has become increasingly concerned with the way Georgia is perceived by prospective economic development recruits.  His political advertisements focused on teacher furloughs and layoffs, and in one ad Barnes highlighted state legislative antics focused on banning stem cell research, microchip implantation in the brain, and seceding from the Union.
Ninth District Voters to Return to the Polls for the 4th time in 4 Months

Newly-minted Congressman Tom Graves fell less than 450 votes short of winning the Republican nomination for the seat he won in June to fill Nathan Deal?s unexpired term.  After winning a plurality of the votes cast in the May special election, Graves faced the second place contender in June and became the state?s newest Congressman.  In yesterday?s election, Graves received 49.5% of the vote in a field of six candidates, which means that he will again face former State Senator Lee Hawkins in another runoff on August 10th.  

With 26.7% of the vote, Hawkins significantly trailed Graves in the primary.  The biggest winner in this election marathon come August 10th will be Deal who scored very well in his former district in his bid for Governor.  The congressional runoff will mean that more 9th district voters will return to the polls in August.
Other Election Highlights

? Tea-party primary challenges to powerful incumbents in the Georgia General Assembly proved to be unsuccessful on Tuesday.  The power of incumbency helped legislative leaders including Representative Sharon Cooper, Senator Judson Hill, Representative Judy Manning, Senator Jeff Mullis, and Representative Tom Rice stave off challenges handily.

? Republicans will choose between former Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Ralph Hudgens and attorney Maria Sheffield in the August 10th runoff for the party?s nomination for Insurance Commissioner.  Hudgens and Sheffield received just 20 and 19 percent of the vote respectively.  Former House Insurance Committee Chairman Tom Knox placed 3rd in a crowded field of nine candidates.  The Republican nominee will face Democratic nominee Mary Squires in November.

? State Representative Mark Butler easily defeated State Representative Melvin Everson for the Republican nomination for state Labor Commissioner.  Democrats appear to have chosen Darryl Hicks over former Georgia House Speaker Terry Coleman in one of the closest races of the primary, with the current totals showing Hicks leading Coleman 50.2% to 49.8%.

? In the 4th Congressional District, incumbent Congressman Hank Johnson handily defeated former legislator and DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and Commissioner Connie Stokes.  Johnson is expected to win in November. This is the seat formerly held by Cynthia McKinney.
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