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Dueling endorsements in lt. governor's race

ATLANTA - After staying out of the primary races, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin threw her considerable political weight Monday behind Jim Martin in next month's Democratic runoff for lieutenant governor.

Not to be outdone, Greg Hecht - Martin's opponent in the Aug. 8 runoff - garnered the support of state Sen. Steen Miles, D-Decatur, the third-place finisher in last week's primary.

Martin, 60, a former state lawmaker and commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, won 41.2 percent of the primary vote, to 36.4 percent for Hecht, 42, also a former legislator. Miles and two other candidates split the remainder.

Under state law, candidates must get 50 percent of the vote plus one in a primary to avoid a runoff with the second-place finisher.

Franklin, who was overwhelmingly re-elected mayor last year, didn't endorse any Democrats in this year's primaries, waiting until Election Night last week to appear on the podium with victorious gubernatorial nominee Mark Taylor.

But on Monday, the mayor came out swinging on behalf of Martin, who represented an Atlanta district in the Georgia House for 18 years before being tapped by former Gov. Roy Barnes to head the DHR.

"For over 20 years, (Martin) has been a leading voice in state government for women, children and equality,'' Franklin said during a news conference outside the Capitol. "He has developed a reputation for honesty, integrity and intelligence.''

Several hours later, standing in almost the same spot, Miles said Hecht is the only Democrat left in the lieutenant governor's race who can keep the position out of Republican hands.

With Taylor leaving the post he has held for eight years to run for governor, the job is vacant, giving the GOP a better opportunity to take it from the Democrats

"Greg Hecht has the political acumen, the energy, the knowledge of the issues and the heart to beat the Republican nominee,'' Miles said.

Besides Franklin's endorsement, Martin also has the support of Barnes, who endorsed him before last week's primary, and of Griffin Lotson, who came in fourth in last week's primary. Lotson, a businessman from Darien, joined Franklin at Monday's announcement.

Hecht has won support from 16 members of the General Assembly, including Rep. Stan Watson, D-Decatur, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

The winner of the runoff will face Republican state Sen. Casey Cagle in November. Cagle won the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor last week over Ralph Reed.