Originally created 07/23/98

Millner runoff possible

Guy Millner will have to wait until next week before he knows for certain whether he'll have to face Mike Bowers again in a runoff Aug. 11 for the Republican nomination for governor.

Democrats Roy Barnes and Secretary of State Lewis Massey, who already know they're in a runoff for their party's gubernatorial nomination, wasted no time Wednesday mixing it up.

In the only local runoff, Richmond County Probate Court Judge candidates Isaac "Buddy" Jolles and Ben Swain McElmurray spent Wednesday regrouping and thinking about raising additional money so they can continue.

Unofficial returns from Tuesday's primary gave Mr. Millner a slim 2,300 vote margin for the 50 percent total he needed to avoid a runoff. With all but one precinct counted statewide, Mr. Millner had 209,930 votes, or 50 percent, to 166,974, or 40 percent, for Mr. Bowers, the former attorney general.

But those results will not be certified until Monday and Mr. Bowers said Wednesday he may ask for a recount.

"We've just got to wait and see," Mr. Bowers said. "Whatever is the result, I'll deal with it."

Mr. Barnes kicked off the Democratic action by challenging Mr. Massey to sign a pledge against using negative advertising. Mr. Massey countered with his own pledge.

"I will pledge to tell the truth about my record and Mr. Barnes' record," he said.

Mr. Barnes, an attorney and longtime state lawmaker from Mableton, vowed to fight back if Mr. Massey continues to slam him.

"I will defend myself vigorously," he said.

Both Probate Court Judge candidates got back to their respective law offices Wednesday, even if they couldn't leave the campaign behind.

"I came down here in the morning thinking I was going to get something done in the practice," Mr. Jolles said. Instead, he spent much of the day returning calls and talking to those who dropped by to give him strategy advice.

"There's a lot of advice out there," he said, laughing.

Mr. McElmurray also managed to meet with his campaign committee Wednesday in between taking calls at the office and dispatching his sons to straighten up the campaign signs.

"We're prepared to regroup and run just as hard as we have been," Mr. McElmurray said.

Neither candidate was able to reserve much campaign money for the runoff and must now figure out how to fund the new run.

"I just have to use some personal funds" in the interim, though contributions are still coming in, Mr. McElmurray said.

`We're probably going to be starting over," Mr. Jolles said.

Augusta attorney James T. Plunkett was also back in the office Wednesday after missing the runoff in the Probate Court race, but he may be in the most intriguing position. Mr. Plunkett can now throw his support, and conceivably a number of votes, to one or the other. Both of the other candidates talked to him about it on election night but he probably won't decide what to do until Friday.

"I would hope, if I am inclined to do this, that it would have some impact," Mr. Plunkett said.

In other runoffs, both parties must still decide on a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Democrats and state senators Mary Margaret Oliver and Mark Taylor square off, while Fulton County Commission chairman Mitch Skandalakis and Days Inn heir Clint Day face each other on the Republican side. Democrats must chose a Labor Commissioner candidate from between Michael Thurmond and either Steve Henson or Richard McGee, whose battle for second place was still too close to call Wednesday. Republicans must choose who will challenge Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker from among David Ralston and Kip Klein.

The delay in the GOP nomination for governor could have a ripple effect across the state as counties wait for the Secretary of State's office to decide the issue.

"If there's a recount, we could be into the middle of next week," said Lynn Bailey, executive director of Richmond County Board of Elections. With only 21 days between the primary and the runoff on Aug. 11, election officials are under a time crunch anyway, Ms. Bailey said. Having to wait on the certified information before printing up ballots just increases the pressure on that deadline, she said.


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