State races see light turnout, but dramatic results

ATLANTA - A low turnout but some dramatic upsets and potential upsets in the making marked Georgia's primary voting Tuesday.

Despite a barrage of political ads that flooded TV screens in recent weeks, voters showed up in sparse numbers to re-nominate Gov. Sonny Perdue and choose either Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor or Secretary of State Cathy Cox as the Democrat to challenge the Republican governor this fall.

"There have been some hot pockets in DeKalb and Fulton (counties),'' Ashley Holt, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said late Tuesday afternoon. "But for the most part, statewide, it's been light.''

Holt said the turnout appeared to be in line with the 22 percent the agency's Elections Division had predicted.

Also as expected, Republicans overwhelmingly chose Perdue to run for a second term as governor against an unknown, underfunded primary opponent.

Cox ultimately conceded the much tighter Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Taylor was leading Cox with 51 percent of the vote to 44 percent, with 91 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial returns.

Political unknowns Mac McCarley and Bill Bolton were well out of the running.

The other top race of the day, the Republican contest for lieutenant governor, produced a surprisingly resounding win for state Sen. Casey Cagle, who defeated the better-known Ralph Reed, former national chairman of the Christian Coalition.

With Cagle holding a 10-point lead, Reed conceded defeat shortly before 10 p.m.

But the biggest potential upset of the day was looming in the 4th Congressional District, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney held a narrow lead over DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson.

At press time, McKinney was leading Johnson with 47 percent of the vote to 45 percent, with 98 percent of precincts reporting. John Coyne III was running a distant third with 9 percent of the vote.

But Coyne's numbers were enough to potentially deny McKinney a winning margin and force a runoff with Johnson on Aug. 8.

To win an election outright under Georgia law, a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote plus one.

Elsewhere in congressional primaries, Rep. Tom Price, R-Roswell, was headed toward an easy victory over a Republican primary challenger in the 6th District, and Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, was well ahead of former state Sen. Donzella James in the 13th District Democratic race.

Former Rep. Mac Collins of Jackson, who is making a bid to return to Congress, was trouncing James Neal Harris in the 8th District Republican primary. Collins would face incumbent Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Macon, in November.

Along with the 4th Congressional District contest, several statewide races with multiple candidates appeared headed toward runoffs.

In the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Jim Martin and former Sen. Greg Hecht were the leading vote-getters, but neither could reach the 50 percent mark in a five-way race. Meanwhile, both of the crowded primaries for secretary of state also apparently won't be decided until next month's runoffs.

In the Republican race, Fulton County Commission Chairman Karen Handel was headed toward a showdown with state Sen. Bill Stephens of Canton.

On the Democratic side, state Rep. Gail Buckner of Jonesboro likely will face Darryl Hicks, a former corporate executive from Fayetteville.

In other down-ballot contests, state School Superintendent Kathy Cox of Peachtree City held a big lead in her bid for renomination to a second term. Cox likely would oppose Democrat Denise Majette in November.

Majette, who served one term in Congress representing the 4th District, held a comfortable lead over Carlotta Harrell in the Democratic primary for schools chief.

Businessman Brent Brown of Atlanta was on his way to capturing the Republican nod for labor commissioner. He would take on incumbent Democrat Michael Thurmond for that post.

Yet another runoff appeared likely in the Republican race for commissioner of agriculture. Gary Black of Commerce and state Sen. Brian Kemp of Athens were the leading vote-getters in a four-way race for the right to challenge longtime incumbent Democrat Tommy Irvin.

Republican nominations for two seats on the Georgia Public Service Commission also were being decided on Tuesday.

In the 3rd District, Chuck Eaton held a huge lead for the GOP nomination. He would oppose incumbent Democrat David Burgess this fall.

In the 5th District, incumbent Commissioner Stan Wise was easily outdistancing GOP primary challenger Newt Nickell. Wise would face Democrat Dawn Randolph in November.