Graves will have little time to savor the win, however. He’ll need to hit the campaign trail again almost immediately.
A July 20 primary will select the GOP nominee for a full two-year term in the House. No Democrat has qualified to run for the seat in November.
“We’ll continue to communicate the positive vision and the positive message,” said Graves in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Graves, a former state representative from rural Ranger, handily defeated fellow Republican Lee Hawkins, according to unofficial results. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Graves had 56.5 percent of the vote and Hawkins had 43.5 percent.
In Gordon County, Graves received 643 votes to Hawkins 153 or 80.78-percent of the votes to 19.22 percent.
“We’re excited, very pleased with the campaign,” said Graves, who said he spent election night in Big Canoe with about 200 supporters.
“Over the last 12 months, my family, team, and volunteers have been untiring in their support, I cannot thank them enough,” Graves said in a statement. “Our volunteers made over 26,000 calls, knocked on over 5,000 doors, and responded to over 300 voter contacts. We’d like to thank everyone who has helped us along the way and are looking forward to serving the people of North Georgia in Washington.”
“I am deeply honored to have been elected to serve this great country,” continued Graves. “And I am firmly committed to upholding our American principles: less government, lower taxes, and personal responsibility. What our country needs right now are conservatives who will not be swayed by either popular opinion or negative attacks — we need to be the party that leads on immigration reform, on free market healthcare solutions, on cutting government waste, and on empowering the private sector to be the job creators.”
Graves, 40, will finish the remainder of Nathan Deal’s term. Deal, a longtime congressman, stepped down earlier this year to seek the Republican nomination for Georgia governor.
Graves ran with support from the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, the anti-tax group Club for Growth and Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House. He tapped into anti-Washington anger in the conservative north Georgia district where frustration is high over government spending, a sweeping health reform law and the lack of federal action on immigration reform.
The 9th congressional district covers 15 north Georgia counties, including the eastern half of Gordon County, and is heavily Republican. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain won 75 percent of the vote in the district.
Graves and Hawkins were the top vote getters in a May 11 special election. But neither won the majority in the eight-person field sending the race to a runoff.
Hawkins, a 59-year-old dentist from Gainesville, served in the state Senate. He cast himself as the mainstream conservative and a problem solver.
Graves, meanwhile, adopted insurgent rhetoric in his bid. He referred to supporters as “freedom fighters.”
Graves grew up in Bartow County and graduated from the University of Georgia, where he earned a Bachelors of Business Administration in Finance. Graves is a small businessman, past member of the Gordon County Board of Elections and an active member of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife Julie, a native of Marietta, have three children, JoAnn, John and Janey. They attend the Belmont Baptist Church in Calhoun.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.