The race to replace U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal in Congress now moves to a June 8 runoff between front-runner Tom Graves, a former state House member with tea party backing, and former state senator Lee Hawkins of Gainesville.
The winner will finish out the final six months of Deal’s term. The big question now is how many of the other four Republican candidates will declare themselves out of the July 20 Republican primary for the full term that begins in January. And how quickly.
In the Tuesday special election vote, Hawkins won 49 percent of his home Hall County, population anchor for the district, but Graves built his lead by winning strong pluralities in three of the next four most populous caches of votes: 48 percent in Forsyth County; 39 percent in Whitfield County; and 52 percent in Pickens County.
The contest was formally nonpartisan, but both Graves and Hawkins are Republicans. Graves was backed by the Washington-based group Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks — a major