Georgia Senate Runoff Is Looming

Posted July 16, 2008 at 6:24pm

Despite some noise during Georgia’s primary season, Peach State incumbents had little trouble wrapping up their party nominations Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, in Georgia’s crowded Democratic Senate primary, former state Rep. Jim Martin and DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones will be headed to an August runoff to decide who will take on Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) in November.

Jones took 40 percent to Martin’s 34 percent in a five-way primary that brought out almost 483,000 voters statewide.

Martin, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, is the favorite of much of the state’s political establishment. But in the three-week sprint to the runoff, it will be interesting to see whether a racial split develops, as Jones is black and Martin is white.

Regardless of who wins the runoff, Chambliss, who had more than $4 million in his campaign account as of June 25, is favored to win a second term.

In the central Georgia 12th district, Rep. John Barrow (D) was being challenged by a well-known black state legislator in a district that is 45 percent black. But the white two-term Congressman trounced state Sen. Regina Thomas in his closely watched primary battle. Barrow, who was buoyed by the endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) last month, took 76 percent to Thomas’ 24 percent.

Barrow will now face John Stone, a radio personality and former Congressional aide, who won a three-way primary race outright after garnering 57 percent Tuesday.

Barrow has won two narrow general election victories, but he may have a somewhat easier time this November, particularly if Obama is still targeting Georgia and is working hard to pull black voters to the polls.

Farther north in the Augusta- and Athens-based 10th district, Rep. Paul Broun (R) had little trouble dispatching state Rep. Barry Fleming (R), despite Fleming earning the backing of large numbers of state legislators and Georgia GOP insiders. Broun, whose campaign had released numbers in recent months showing him well-ahead, cruised to victory with 71 percent to Fleming’s 29 percent.

In the Atlanta-based 5th district, Rep. John Lewis (D) had no problems earning a nomination to a 12th term in Congress over two younger challengers who attacked him for backing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) in the Democratic primary before he switched his endorsement to Obama. Lewis won the three-way primary race outright with 69 percent.

Rep. Jim Marshall (D), who faces a competitive general election battle, easily won his primary Tuesday with 86 percent of the vote, and Rep. David Scott (D) had minimal trouble in his race, taking 64 percent.