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Johnson sweeps McKinney out of office, wins nomination for

4th district

ATLANTA - U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney lost her bid for re-election to Congress Tuesday for the second time in four years.

Unexpectedly forced into a runoff last month, McKinney lost the Democratic nomination in the 4th Congressional District to former DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson.

With 89 percent of the precincts reporting shortly after 11 p.m., Johnson led McKinney with 58.9 percent of the vote to her 41.1 percent.

He will face Republican Catherine Davis for the right to represent the 4th district, which includes most of DeKalb County, a large part of Rockdale and part of western Gwinnett.

Despite Johnson's winning margin, the race was uncertain for much of the night because the DeKalb votes were the last to come in. South DeKalb long had been McKinney's base of support.

That wasn't the case statewide, as none of the four runoff contests - two on the Democratic side and two on the Republican - were close.

Former state Rep. Jim Martin of Atlanta easily captured the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

Democratic Rep. Gail Buckner of Jonesboro was well ahead in the Democratic runoff for secretary of state, apparently headed for a fall showdown with Fulton County Commission Chairman Karen Handel of Roswell, who won the Republican nod.

And in the only other statewide runoff, Gary Black, former head of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, sailed to the GOP nomination for commissioner of agriculture.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting in all of the statewide contests, Martin led former state Sen. Greg Hecht of Jonesboro 61 percent to 39 percent.

Martin will face the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, Gainesville-area state Sen. Casey Cagle, in November.

"We went to areas where we hadn't been as successful during the primary election,'' Martin said as the runoff votes came pouring in. "It looks like it paid off.''

In the secretary of state runoffs, Democrat Buckner led retired business executive Darryl Hicks of Fayetteville, 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent. His only hope, an extremely slim one, was to sweep the still uncounted DeKalb precincts.

On the Republican side, Handel defeated state Sen. Bill Stephens of Canton, 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent.

Black, of Commerce, captured the Republican nomination for agriculture commissioner by a large margin over state Sen. Brian Kemp of Athens, with 59.8 percent of the vote to 40.2 percent.

Johnson hadn't been expected to push McKinney into a runoff.

She only began to campaign actively after he posted a strong 44 percent of the vote in the July 18 primary to her 47 percent.

In the days that followed, McKinney hit the streets with her T-shirt wearing supporters, appeared with Johnson in several radio and TV debates and launched a wave of ads on metro-Atlanta cable TV outlets.

During the three weeks between the primary and Tuesday's runoff, McKinney portrayed herself as one of the few Democrats in Congress willing to confront President Bush over his handling of the war in Iraq and his administration's slow response in aiding neighborhoods and communities hit by Hurricane Katrina, many populated predominantly by blacks.

Johnson argued that McKinney's controversial statements had alienated her congressional colleagues, including some Democrats, to the point that she could not be an effective advocate for the 4th District.

He also called on her to more fully explain the scuffle she got into last March with a Capitol police officer, who didn't recognize her at a checkpoint and tried to stop her.

She was accused of striking the officer, but a grand jury declined to indict her.

For her part, McKinney hammered Johnson over his checkered financial past, which included failing to pay his taxes on time and filing for bankruptcy.

She accused him of taking campaign contributions from a landfill operator who had business before the county commission and charged that his campaign against her was being underwritten by Republican donors.

Johnson denied receiving money from the landfill operator and said the vast majority of his campaign funds came from Democrats.

Johnson had more of that money to work with down the stretch. Between the primary and Aug. 5, he raised $183,500 in contributions of $1,000 or more, compared to just $64,100 brought in by McKinney during the same period, according to reports the two filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Despite the divisive nature of the campaign, Johnson called for unity in his victory speech late Tuesday night.

"This has not been an easy race,'' he said. "(But) now, it's time to heal the wounds and for everyone to come together.''

McKinney served a decade in the House before losing the seat in the 2002 primary. However, she won it back two years ago, when then-Rep. Denise Majette left Congress in an unsuccessful bid for the Senate.

Like the McKinney-Johnson race, the contests between Martin and Hecht and Stephens and Handel were filled with charges and countercharges.

Two Georgia newspapers, the Macon Telegraph and Atlanta-based Creative Loafing, even withdrew their endorsements of Hecht and supported Martin, citing negative campaigning by Hecht.

During a TV debate a week before the runoff, Hecht apologized for taking out of context a 12-year-old statement from Martin declaring that some rape victims "should have known better.''

But Hecht insisted that it was Martin who had begun the negative campaigning by putting out a mailer that said Hecht didn't support women's rights.

Stephens questioned Handel's conservative credentials, always a key consideration in a Republican primary. He accused her of supporting domestic-partner benefits for gay couples as a member of the Fulton commission and of voting to fund Planned Parenthood - a group that provides abortion services.

Handel countered by highlighting a stiff $14,000 fine meted out to Stephens two years ago by the State Ethics Commission for misusing campaign funds.

Stephens and Handel also argued about whether Stephens' experience in the General Assembly or Handel's as a former head of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce was better preparation for the duties of a secretary of state.

Hicks and Buckner engaged in a similar public-versus-private-sector debate in their much more tepid race for the Democratic nomination.

Bucker touted her 16 years in the Georgia House, and Hicks who held up his 20 years in the corporate world as an executive with Atlanta Gas Light.

For Black and Kemp, the contest shaped up as a dispute over which would have a better chance of unseating longtime Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.

Black emphasized his years of experience as an advocate for farmers and farm businesses at the state and federal levels of government.

Kemp stressed his mix of experience as a member of legislative committees with jurisdiction over agriculture and a business owner who understood the daily concerns of agri-businesses.