Georgia Voters Put Rep. McKinney in Runoff; Former Christian Coalition Leader Out
ATLANTA – Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney couldn't avoid a runoff in her first election following a scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer, and now faces a second contest against her main challenger, Hank Johnson.
In the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed was unable to overcome his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and conceded defeat to state Sen. Casey Cagle.
In Georgia's Democratic primary for governor, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor won 52 percent of the vote to defeat Secretary of State Cathy Cox, and will move on to face Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue in November.
McKinney, the state's first black woman elected to Congress, is seeking her seventh term after a scuffle in March with an officer who stopped her when he didn't recognize her as she entered a House office building. A federal grand jury in Washington declined to indict the congresswoman, but she had to apologize on the floor of the House.
Johnson, a former county commissioner, has roots in McKinney's core constituency. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, 1,540 votes separated the two. They face an Aug. 8 runoff, and the winner will face Republican nominee Catherine Davis in the heavily Democratic district.
"The battle's engaged and I intend to win," said McKinney early Wednesday.
Reed was making his first bid for elective office after working for years as a behind-the-scenes campaign strategist and leading the Christian Coalition and the state Republican Party.
He vied with Cagle for the GOP nomination in a primary race that appeared closer than expected in recent months because of Reed's work with Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption earlier this year.
In attack ads and televised debates, Cagle hammered away at Reed's connections to Abramoff, and asked whether Reed could face criminal charges for accepting more than $5.3 million from two Indian tribes. Reed has not been charged with a crime and has said repeatedly that he regrets the work he did with Abramoff. Reed said he was vindicated by a two-year Senate probe.
"If good decent people offer themselves in this state for public office, we can make this state a better place," Cagle said as he declared victory.
An upbeat Reed told a crowd of a few dozen cheering supporters that, although his candidacy had ended, his conservative message will live on.
"Stay in the fight. Don't retreat. And our values will win in November," he said.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Cagle had 56 percent of vote to Reed's 44 percent. On the Democrat side, former state Sen. Sen. Greg Hecht and former Department of Human Resources Commissioner Jim Martin were headed into a runoff.
In Alabama, George Wallace Jr. — son of the legendary Alabama governor and presidential candidate — lost his bid for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor to Luther Strange, a first-time candidate.
With 83 percent of the precincts reporting statewide, the unofficial count showed Strange had 55 percent, and Wallace with 45 percent.