Local News

June 8, 2010

Graves defeats Hawkins; local turnout low

Former state Rep. Tom Graves of Ranger defeated former state Sen. Lee Hawkins of  Gainesville on Tuesday in the special election runoff for Georgia’s 9th District U.S. House of Representatives seat.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, Graves had 22,684 votes (56.5 percent) to Hawkins 17,499 (43.5 percent).

It was the second time in four weeks the two Republicans faced off for that seat. Graves took first place in an eight-man special election for the post on May 11, with 35.4 percent of the vote, and Hawkins took second place with 23.2 percent.

“We are very excited about the outcome and pleased that the voters of North Georgia entrusted us with this great responsibility. We are going to represent Georgia with a bold conservative voice,” Graves said Tuesday night.

Graves’ victory on Tuesday means he will fill the unexpired term of Nathan Deal, which ends at the end of the year. Deal stepped down earlier this year to concentrate on his run for governor.

Graves said he did not know exactly when he will be sworn into office but that it should be soon.

Voters will go to the polls again on July 20 for the general primary to determine who fills the next full two-year term in the seat, and Graves and Hawkins, along with five other candidates, will compete for the Republican nomination. No Democrat qualified for the primary.

Hawkins said Tuesday night he felt good about his chances in the primary.

“We came up quite a bit from the special election. We are very happy about that. We also noticed the numbers are down somewhat in the west side (of the district), and I think that may be some indication that folks are questioning Mr. Graves as far as his integrity,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins pointed to questions about some of Graves’ business dealings, including a lawsuit filed against Graves and state Senate Majority Leader Chip Price, R-Woodstock, for allegedly defaulting on a $2.5 million loan by the Bartow County Bank. The two have reportedly countersued the bank for allegedly going back on a promise to refinance the loan.

Graves said that he will continue his campaign while serving in Congress.

“We will develop a track record, and voters can see that not only do I campaign on less government, lower taxes and personal responsibility but that’s policies I will advocate for,” he said.

Local turnout was low despite a push by Dalton Mayor David Pennington to get voters to the polls, but close to the turnout for the May special election. For instance, in Whitfield County, turnout was 10.9 percent for the runoff, compared to 10.98 percent for the special election. In Murray County, turnout was 6.25 percent, compared to 7.68 percent in the special election.

Graves easily took Whitfield County with 2,778 votes to 1,243 for Hawkins. In Murray County, Graves received 704 votes while Hawkins got 270.


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