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Democratic Senate contenders feud

ATLANTA - The Democratic race for U.S. Senate turned bitter on Wednesday as two of the candidates skirmished over party loyalty.

Former television journalist Dale Cardwell accused DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones - who twice voted for George W. Bush - of running in the wrong primary.

'Vernon Jones is a Republican in Democratic clothing,' Cardwell said.

Jones fired back by providing a copy of Cardwell's voting record from the Secretary of State's office, which shows the ex-reporter cast a Republican ballot in the 2006 primary as well as the ensuing runoff.

Cardwell explained that he took a GOP ballot in the primary to vote against former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, who was then running for lieutenant governor. Reed lost. Cardwell said he could not recall why he voted in the runoff.

But Cardwell told The Associated Press that although he voted for Ronald Reagan in his first White House bid in 1980, he's supported Democratic presidential candidates ever since.

The bickering months before the July 15 primary shows just how caustic the race could become for the right to run against Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss, who faces no primary opposition.

Cardwell went on the attack against Jones after the former reporter filed paperwork at the Capitol on Wednesday to get on the ballot.

'It's time that somebody runs as an independent voice for Georgians,' said Cardwell, who worked at WSB-TV in Atlanta.

Jones said Wednesday that Cardwell used his position as a reporter 'to manufacture stories and investigations about me' with an eye toward creating a platform to run for office. Cardwell denied that Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Cardwell labeled a third Democratic Senate candidate, former state lawmaker Jim Martin, 'a convenient-crat,' who only got into the race after national party officials pledged to funnel cash to his campaign.

Martin spokesman Scott McCall said Martin entered the race because he was concerned about Chambliss' representation of the state. He dismissed Cardwell's criticism.