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Runoff to pick Georgia's newest member of Congress

ATLANTA -- Voters in north Georgia -- many fed up with Washington -- will select a new congressman in a special election runoff on Tuesday.

Republicans Tom Graves and Lee Hawkins are facing off in a race to fill out the unexpired term of Nathan Deal, who stepped down to seek the Republican nomination for governor.

Graves and Hawkins, both former state lawmakers, were the top vote getters in a crowded, eight-person special election May 11. Graves won 35.4 percent of the vote and Hawkins 23.2 percent.

In Georgia, a runoff is held if no candidate earns 50 percent plus one vote. Polls were scheduled to close at 7 p.m.

The winner will have little time to savor the victory. A July 20 primary will be held to select the GOP nominee for a full term. No Democrats have qualified to run for the seat in November.

The pair have spent the last four weeks crisscrossing the conservative 15-county district which hugs the northwest corner of the state.

The 40-year-old Graves, a business developer and former state representative from rural Ranger, is running with support from Atlanta Tea Party Patriots and the anti-tax Washington group Club for Growth. He also pocketed the endorsement of Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House.

Hawkins, a 59-year-old dentist and former state senator from Gainesville, has been touting his own support as homegrown and has questioned Graves' ties to special interests outside the district.

The campaign has become increasingly bitter as it has entered the final days.

Graves was hit with a lawsuit from a Georgia bank saying he and another prominent Republican state legislator failed to repay a $2.3 million loan used to buy a budget motel.

Graves accused Hawkins of spreading word of the lawsuit and described the effort as gutter politics.

Hawkins denied publicizing the lawsuit but nonetheless used it to criticize Graves, saying his inability to manage his own business demonstrated he was unfit to manage the business of 9th district residents.

Turnout was just 13.4 percent for the May 11 special election.

The 9th congressional district is heavily Republican. In the 2008 presidential race, 75 percent of voters there cast a ballot for Republican John McCain.