LAWRENCEVILLE -- Rob Woodall won a huge victory Tuesday in his race to replace his former boss John Linder in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Woodall, Linder's former chief of staff, had an 11-point lead on pastor Jody Hice in the Republican primary runoff Tuesday. According to unofficial results, Woodall took 39,973 votes in the 7th Congressional District -- including nearly 60 percent of Gwinnett's ballots -- to Hice's 31,413.
"We executed our plan today," Woodall said, as he celebrated with friends at Sperata on the Square in Lawrenceville.
While many predicted that the Republican primary would decide Linder's replacement in a conservative district, Woodall looked toward November, where he will battle Democrat Doug Heckman in the general election.
"There's a lot to do between now and then," Woodall said. "We'll have to redouble our efforts to make people excited in November."
Celebrating with his former staffer, who helped write the FairTax legislation he has championed, Linder said he could not take any credit for Woodall's success.
"Rob Woodall is much smarter than I am and much more serious. He'll be a better congressman than I am," the 18-year incumbent said. "All victories belong to the candidate. Rob worked very, very hard."
As precincts came in, Hice remained optimistic. He said he was "hopeful" as he waited on returns at a celebration at 550 Trackside.
But by 10 p.m. the margin seemed less likely to dissipate.
"We've done everything we can do, and I'm still at peace," he said of the results. "A powerful grassroots movement has come forth. We've met hundreds of thousands of people who have encouraged us."
In the runoff, the radio host had the support of all of the major tea party groups in the congressional district, but the grassroots effort did not prevail.
Paul Davis of the Gwinnett Tea Party said the movement is still worthwhile, even though candidates have not succeeded in the local congressional races. Clay Cox, who had the support of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots in the July primary, did not make the runoff.
"The reason is because of the blindness of a lot of people," Davis said. "A lot of people don't study and read who the candidates are. That's the problem with America, the apathy. ... But I think we're opening the eyes of a lot of people."
Despite the results, Hice said he would not fade away and work hard at expanding his radio program.
"We are all about doing whatever we can to take back our country," he said."We'll pursue that with all we've got."