Barnes Wins Georgia Governor Democratic Primary

Wednesday, 21 Jul 2010 07:59 AM


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ATLANTA -- Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes won the Democratic nomination Tuesday in his comeback bid for that office.

Mr. Barnes avoided a runoff by trouncing six opponents in Tuesday's state primary, with none of his rivals getting above 10 percent of the vote.

On the Republican side, rival candidates endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich appeared heading for an Aug. 10 run-off in the fight to take on Mr. Barnes in November.

In the Democratic Senate primary, state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond easily won the nomination, but faces an uphill race against Republican incumbent Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Mr. Barnes lost a re-election bid for the governor's office in 2002 to Gov. Sonny Perdue and jumped back into the fray last year. He had dominated the Democratic contest, raising far more money than any of his opponents.

Mrs. Palin's nod to former Secretary of State Karen Handel has helped her surge to the top of the polls in recent days, while former congressman Nathan Deal could benefit from the backing of Mr. Gingrich. The two served together in the U.S. House.

Mr. Barnes' 2002 loss was fueled by teachers angry with his education reforms and others upset over his successful push to remove the Confederate battle symbol from the state's flag. Mr. Perdue is prevented from running again after two terms.

Mrs. Palin's endorsement of Mrs. Handel — the lone woman in the race who could become the state's first female governor — swiftly helped change the dynamic.

Mrs. Handel had been attacked throughout the campaign as too liberal. Mrs. Palin's backing — she called the former secretary of state a "pro-life, pro-constitutionalist with a can-do attitude" — was seen as a conservative seal of approval. Mrs. Handel had the lead in a poll released Sunday.

Mrs. Handel is just one of several candidates across the country recently endorsed by Mrs. Palin, who was Sen. John McCain's running mate during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Mrs. Palin is largely credited with helping South Carolina state Rep. Nikki Haley, once little known in her state, surge to popularity and ultimately win a runoff for the GOP nomination for governor.

The day after Mrs. Palin posted her Handel endorsement on Facebook and Twitter, Mr. Gingrich threw his support behind Mr. Deal.

State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine had been the early front-runner in the race but was in third place with nearly 60 percent of the vote counted.

Mr. Barnes announced last spring that he would make another bid for the governor's mansion. He ran a folksy but focused primary campaign attacking ruling Republicans in the state for neglecting big problems, such as education and transportation, amid the crippling recession.

In northern Georgia, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves could face yet another Republican runoff after winning a special election runoff in June for the seat once held by Mr. Deal. He left Congress to run for governor, and now Mr. Graves is seeking a full two-year term.

His leading opponent is former state Sen. Lee Hawkins, whom he defeated in June's runoff. Five Republicans are in the race, which could make a runoff necessary.

Elsewhere, three Democratic congressmen — Reps. Hank Johnson, David Scott, and John Barrow — are facing opposition in the primary.

Eight GOP contenders are vying to replace Rep. John Linder, a Republican who is retiring after nine terms.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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