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Fourth go-round for Graves, Hawkins in race for House seat

Special election, runoff and primary rounds all won by Graves

POSTED: August 8, 2010 1:00 a.m.
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Tom Graves

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It's nearing the end of round four in the now-infamous contest for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House. And for candidates Tom Graves and Lee Hawkins, that means there are just a few more days to mobilize supporters.

And mobilization is exactly what they're going to need, said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock, as low turnout is expected for the runoff.

"I suspect a number of voters in the area are beginning to experience voter fatigue," he said.

But the candidates seem to think voters will still come out Tuesday to cast their votes one more time, drawn to the gubernatorial race between Karen Handel and Nathan Deal.

"Of course I think that both sides are probably worried a little bit about (voter fatigue), but what works in our favor is that we aren't the only race on the Republican ballot," said Kris Carroll, spokeswoman for the Hawkins campaign.

Tim Baker, Graves campaign manager, said campaign workers have been actively informing voters about the importance of the election.

"We're educating voters," he said. "Yes, we've had four elections. Yes, Tom is the congressman, but we need you to vote one more time.

Bullock said Graves's strong margin of victory from the primary will be hard to beat. Graves won more than 49 percent of votes in the primary, and Hawkins followed with about 27 percent.

"It's not often that you find a person able to overcome that kind of disadvantage in the first place," Bullock said. "He can be beaten, but usually a person with that kind of a margin will go ahead and win."

But Carroll saw the primary results a little differently.

"The results in the primary clearly indicate that Mr. Graves did not have the overwhelming support that one would have expected an incumbent Republican to have," she said.

For Graves, though, a few months with incumbent status in Washington has resulted in several national endorsements from politicians such as Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich.

"They're definitely significant," Baker said of the endorsements. "They're noticing the leader that can go to Washington and do what needs to be done."

Carroll said national endorsements don't fall in with Hawkins' focus on the people of the 9th District.

"Our campaign has never been about seeking support outside of the district," she said. "Our support is from the voters of the 9th District, and we stand solidly behind that strategy."

However, Baker said being in Washington has not changed Graves' connection to the district. He said Graves didn't solicit the national endorsements, but that the other politicians came to him.

In fact, Baker said not much about the Graves campaign has changed through the numerous elections.

"We've got a plan that has been successful in three previous elections, and we're going to continue to do those exact same things," he said.

Carroll said the Hawkins campaign strategy hasn't changed either. She said they still are interacting with voters and earning support through a personal touch.

"Lee is a very hands-on, shake hands and kiss babies kind of candidate," she said. "He has spent a lot of time going door to door, going to places where people gather and talking to people one on one."

There is no Democratic opposition for the seat in November.



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