ATLANTA - U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney struggled in her re-election bid Tuesday while former Department of Human Resources director Jim Martin secured the Democratic nomination for Georgia's No. 2 job.
McKinney trailed challenger Hank Johnson, a former DeKalb County commissioner, with 68 percent of precincts reporting in the district _ Johnson had 58 percent to McKinney's 42 percent.
Martin beat former state Sen. Greg Hecht, leading by 22 percentage points with 89 percent of precincts reporting in the Democratic race for the lieutenant governor's seat. Martin will face state Sen. Casey Cagle, who became the immediate front-runner when he easily upset former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed in the Republican primary last month.
Martin's victory ended what has been a bruising battle. The campaign had been overshadowed by Reed's failed bid for the Republican nomination, but it supplied plenty of its own fireworks in recent weeks as both sides have accused the other of negative campaigning and dirty tricks.
In the runoffs for secretary of state, Fulton County Commission Chairman Karen Handel defeated former state Senate Majority Leader Bill Stephens among the Republicans, with 56 percent of the vote. Handel will face Democrat Gail Buckner, who earned 55 percent of the vote to stave off businessman Darryl Hicks.
Republicans also picked Gary Black, a farmer from Commerce, over state Sen. Brian Kemp of Athens for state agriculture commissioner. Black had 60 percent of the vote with 89 percent of precincts reporting.
Black will face Democrat Tommy Irvin, the dean of the state's constitutional officers, who is seeking a final term before retiring. At age 76, Irvin has held the post for 37 years.
McKinney's re-election bid was still up in the air late Tuesday, as a computer glitch in DeKalb County led to a tallying delay. Once a malfunctioned computer hub was replaced, the precinct results began to roll in, said Chris Riggall, spokesman for the secretary of state's office.
In state House races, Mary Wilhite, a former steering committee member for Gov. Sonny Perdue, lost her bid for a vacant Cherokee County seat by just 35 votes. She would have become the first Republican black woman elected to state office in Georgia since there are no Democrats running for that seat.
Georgia election officials described the turnout as "very, very light," and expected only 10 percent to 13 percent of the state's 4.2 million registered voters to turn out for the runoff elections, which features the top two finishers in primary races where no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote. That's about half of the 22 percent turnout in the July 18 primary.
Turnout was expected to be the highest in McKinney's district, just east of Atlanta.
After 10 years in Congress, the firebrand lawmaker lost the 2002 primary to political newcomer Denise Majette, who vacated the seat two years later to run for the U.S. Senate. McKinney emerged from a crowded 2004 Democratic primary to easily reclaim the seat in the predominantly black, Democratic district.
After her return to Washington, McKinney kept a relatively low profile until March when her scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer grabbed national headlines. Even though a grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing in the incident, the tiff seemed to energize Johnson's campaign, landing him within just 1,700 votes of McKinney in the three-candidate primary.
"I vote all the time but that really sparked it," said Phillip Baker, a Republican who is a 65-year-old retired dentist from Tucker. "That was just an added insult to our district."
The Secretary of State's office reported only two voting problems statewide. Polls were kept open an extra 20 minutes in south Georgia's Coffee County due to a power outage, and a Barrow County precinct kept its polls open for another hour after a school lockdown earlier in the day.
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Georgia Secretary of State: http://www.sos.state.ga.us