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Graves Forced Into Runoff; Barrow, Johnson Win in Ga.

Rep. Tom Graves just barely failed to top 50 percent of the vote in a crowded primary Tuesday, and the Georgia Republican is now headed to an August runoff, one month after winning a special election and being sworn into Congress.

Graves will again face former state Sen. Lee Hawkins, whom he defeated in a June 8 special election runoff to succeed former Rep. Nathan Deal (R). The Congressman, who garnered 49 percent of the vote compared to Hawkins’ 27 percent, is favored to win next month’s contest.

Elsewhere in Georgia primary results Tuesday, two Democratic incumbents avoided being forced into a second round of balloting by garnering a majority of the vote.

Rep. John Barrow easily beat back a primary challenge from former state Sen. Regina Thomas, whom he defeated by more than 50 points in the 2008 primary. On Tuesday, Barrow had 62 percent to Thomas’ 38 percent, with 87 percent of precincts reporting.

In the 4th district, Rep. Hank Johnson managed an outright victory over two well-known primary opponents. Johnson received 55 percent of the vote, followed by former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones with 27 percent and DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes with 18 percent. The Atlanta-based 4th district is safe Democratic territory, and neither Johnson nor Barrow is considered a GOP target for defeat in November.

In the 7th district, where GOP Rep. John Linder is retiring, Rob Woodall and Jody Hice are headed to the Aug. 10 runoff after no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote. Tuesday’s results were somewhat surprising, considering it has been assumed that one of the runoff spots would go to state Rep. Clay Cox, by far the best-known and best-funded candidate in the race. But Cox finished a disappointing third with 20 percent of the vote.

With 78 percent reporting, Woodall, Linder’s former chief of staff who had the outgoing Congressman’s backing, had 37 percent while Hice, a Baptist minister, radio talk-show host and religious activist, had 26 percent.

Linder abruptly announced his retirement in late February, and both Hice and Woodall didn’t begin raising money until the second quarter. Between the beginning of April and the end of June, Hice raised $159,000 while Woodall raised $94,000. Since the beginning of the year Cox raised $362,000, $168,000 of which was a personal loan (he paid himself back $100,000 of that in the second quarter).

The winner of the runoff is all but guaranteed to be the next Member of Congress from the heavily Republican suburban Atlanta district.

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