ATLANTA — Former Gov. Roy Barnes swept to a commanding win in the Democratic race for governor on Tuesday, while Karen Handel and Nathan Deal will square off in a runoff three weeks from now to decide the Republican nominee.
Handel — who’s running to become Georgia’s first female governor — called her lead against a field of six male opponents “a big milestone for women across this state.”
Handel surged to the top of the GOP pack with the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who vouched for her conservative credentials.
“We’re going to put an end to Roy’s political career once and for all,” Handel said.
Deal — who has called Handel too liberal for Georgia — hammered home that he is the “true conservative in the race” and said he looks forward to squaring off with Handel.
“I have a record that I think stands me in good stead as a conservative,” the former congressman from Gainesville said.
Gordon County Republicans gave Deal 41 percent of their votes to 18.5 percent for Handel.
9th Congressional District
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, of Ranger, finished first for the third time in his third election in 70 days on Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough to clinch the Republican nomination for Georgia’s U.S. House of Representatives District 9 seat, the seat he currently holds.
With 93 percent of precincts reporting according to the Secretary of State’s website, Graves was ahead with 48.9 percent of the vote in the six-man Republican primary. That means he is expected to face former state senator Lee Hawkins of Gainesville, who was second in the primary with 27.4 percent, in a runoff on Aug. 10.
Graves received almost 74 percent of the vote in Gordon County, with 1,396 votes to 141 for Hawkins.
It will be the fourth time in as many months that the two men have faced off for that seat and the second time they have met in a runoff.
Graves defeated Hawkins in June in a special election runoff 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent to determine who would fill the unexpired term of Nathan Deal, who stepped down earlier this year to concentrate on his run for governor.
No Democrat qualified for the seat. So the winner of the Aug. 10 runoff should be the only person on the November general election ballot.
State Senate District 52
Barry Loudermilk won the Republican nomination Tuesday to seek the state Senate District 52 seat in the Nov. 2 general election.
He’ll face off against Mike Burton, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Loudermilk, 46, a Cassville business owner, gave up his state House seat to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Rome Republican Preston Smith.
Jeff Knight, 37, a farmer and business owner from Calhoun, took on Loudermilk in the Republican primary but netted just 27.7 percent of the vote to Loudermilk’s 72.3 percent.
In Gordon County voting Knight received 1,074 votes to Loudermilk's 1,110. Burton got 445 votes in Gordon County.
Burton, 66, a retired educator from Cave Spring, has not held elected office before. He pulled in around 3,000 votes.
State Senate District 54
Former Dalton City Council member Charlie Bethel rode a wave of Whitfield County support Tuesday to become the next state senator from District 54.
Bethel defeated former Fairmount Mayor Steve Brannon 58 percent to 42 percent in the Republican primary for that seat. No Democrats qualified, so Bethel will be the only candidate on the November general election ballot.
“I’m very grateful that the people of the 54th Senate district have chosen me as their representative,” Bethel said Tuesday night. “I’m excited about the opportunity to serve, and I’m looking forward to getting further educated and further prepared and hitting the ground running in January.”
Bethel said he would be meeting with Senate leaders and also working with other local members of the General Assembly to make sure this area is represented well.
District 54 includes all of Whitfield and Murray counties and parts of Gordon and Catoosa counties. Brannon carried Catoosa and Gordon counties, but Bethel built up a lead in Murray and Whitfield that he could not overcome.
Brannon did well in his home county, outpolling Bethel 1,400 to 476. Brannon said Tuesday night he believes Bethel will make a good state senator.