ATLANTA -- Jim Martin pulled from second place to win a runoff for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate, beating Vernon Jones Tuesday, the man who had been first in the primary voting last month.
Martin also entered the race about a year after Jones had.
“In a short time, we’ve put together a campaign that has proven it can take on formidable opponents,” Martin said.
At 9:30 with 80 percent of the precincts reporting, Martin had 59 percent to Jones’ 41 percent, prompting Jones to concede.
“This has really been a blessing for me,” Jones said. “We had a good ride, and we worked hard. I accept God’s will.”
Martin even won in Jones’ home county. Martin’s spokesman Ellery Gould credited hard work.
“I think not only were we communicating louder, but we also did a very good job of pinpointing people and speaking directly to them on a number of different ways,” Gould said.
Martin now goes on the November ballot up against Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Libertarian Allen Buckley.
It will be Martin’s second time as the Democrats’ nominee in a statewide race. Two years ago he lost to Republican Casey Cagle for lieutenant governor.
Jones reminded voters at every turn of Martin’s defeat, arguing it would make him the weaker candidate to take on first-term senator Chambliss. Jones, the chief executive officer of DeKalb County, also claimed Martin was too liberal for most Georgians.
But Tuesday night, Martin said he’d sensed on the campaign trail that voters were dissatisfied.
“From these travels, I’ve learned that in every corner of the state Georgians want things to change,” he said. “It is time for someone to stand up for the working people in Washington.”
Martin raised more money than Jones or the other three candidates running for the nomination, but little of it was left for the three-week runoff campaign. To augment their tiny ad budgets, both Martin and Jones sought news coverage by trumpeting endorsements and trading accusations.
Martin won endorsements from two of the three losers in the primary as well as from teacher and labor groups. A veteran state legislator who became state commissioner of human resources, Martin is considered the candidate of the party’s ruling establishment, a fact that helped him raise money and endorsements.
Jones, as a black, comes from a different faction in the party. Experts estimate that more than half the Democratic voters in Georgia are black.
Martin and Jones’ differences and nasty accusations will force the winner to try to patch up the wounds, said Daniel Franklin, a political science professor at Georgia State University.
“After the primaries, everybody is always sore,” Franklin said.
Greeted by shouts at his red, white and blue-festooned headquarters, Jones accepted his defeat as divine political intervention.
“I accept God’s will. He knows what is best for me,” Jones said.
The conservative Democrat who chastised his party as out of touch with Georgians said turnout had a big impact on his showing in the runoff, saying those who backed him in July didn’t follow through Tuesday.
“Sometimes they don’t come back out because they think you’ve got it made,” he said.
While Jones congratulated Martin, he was reluctant to throw his support behind him so soon, saying he plans to discuss that with Martin.
Jones maintained his highly publicized votes for President George Bush was not an issue on voters’ minds, only in the media.
Martin told his supporters that he wanted to enact policies that would restore growth in the economy.
“The only thing standing in the way is Saxby Chambliss,” he said. “With your help, we will continue our journey until the train pulls into Union Station in Washington.”