ATLANTA -- Vernon Jones and Jim Martin are headed for an Aug. 5 runoff in the Democratic race for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Saxby Chambliss, and both appeared ready to battle late Tuesday.
Martin signaled a tougher tone for the runoff, highlighting the Dekalb County CEO's statements that he voted for President Bush in 2000 and 2004.
"We have two opponents we'll face, and the Georgia voters will have to decide whether they want somebody who will stand against the Bush policies or somebody who's embraced the Bush policies -- both in this Democratic runoff and in the general election," Martin said.
Jones and Martin far outpaced former broadcast journalist Dale Caldwell, Josh Lanier and Rand Knight.
The Jones' camp also appeared ready to rumble.
"This is a major victory," said Jones' campaign consultant Mike Cantone. "Jim Martin was supported by the Washington establishment."
The eventual winner faces Chambliss in the November general election.
With 79 percent of precincts reporting, Jones led with 40 percent, followed by Martin's 35 percent.
Martin raised the most money and had the backing of many of the party's leaders.
"It shows that we've put together a very strong campaign," said Martin's spokesman, Ellery Gould. "A lot of it has to do with who Jim is and that they know him from the 2006 campaign."
Knight, a software sales director, got endorsements from labor unions and teacher groups, two factions that often use their organizations to spur members to turnout and vote. Still, he didn't raise much money for staff or advertising.
"We simply didn't have the kind of cash that one would typically expect a statewide race to get the message out," he said. "Our yield is extremely high when they hear the message."
Cardwell, who garnered 15 percent in late returns, hoped his dozen years as a television reporter in Atlanta would give him an edge, but Swint discounted it.
U.S. SENATE, DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY
With 79 percent of precincts reporting
Vernon Jones 40.4 percent
Jim Martin 34.5 percent
Dale Cardwell 15.5 percent
Josh Lanier 4.5 percent
Rand Knight 5.1 percent