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Oglesby: With runoff done, primary has intrigue
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It was no great surprise that Tom Graves won the runoff to fill the unexpired U.S. House term of Nathan Deal.

Yet runner-up Lee Hawkins gained ground in virtually every county, Hall particularly, probably aided by Graves' mounting financial problems and widening investigation of them.

Now the two square off again in the regular primary July 20 for the full term starting in January. Five more join them making it virtually certain there will be another runoff.

Graves, as in the runoff two weeks ago, starts with the upper hand again as the incumbent, but his mounting problems could give Hawkins and two more of the other candidates a reasonable shot. It's going to be interesting to see how this unfolds.

What intrigues me most now are divergent discussions I'm hearing about the full slates in the regular primaries. I've already early voted so can't change any horses if I wanted. Some samplings:

On the Graves-Hawkins' full-term congressional race: Lee has got a tough road to travel. Though he gained ground, there's still a long way to go. Graves, as an incumbent, has seniority over the rest of expected new GOP representatives in January. That will help, particularly with committee assignments. On the other hand, if voters prove anti-incumbent, he could lose votes.

Has anyone considered that Graves likely won't even be in our district after reapportionment? Hawkins will be in our district because he lives here. Remember, the 9th District was gerrymandered during the Roy Barnes administration so badly that federal courts stepped in ordering changes. Many counties closer to, with common interests, and traditionally aligned with Hall were eliminated and replaced with counties without our common interests on the other side of the state.

The news about Graves' financial and ethical problems broke too late for most voters to study, get them sorted out and factor those considerations into choosing who to vote for. His home county of Gordon turned out fewer voters than in the first special election while Hall turned out considerably more, indicating Gordon's missing voters were aware of what was going on. This race will get uglier as July 20 approaches.

Statewide, on the Democratic primary side, I don't hear much talk about the governor's race. Despite the large number of candidates, Barnes will lead the ticket and might squeak a close win without a runoff.

The GOP side is different. There will be a runoff. Polls still show Nathan Deal beating Barnes by a wider margin than any of the frontrunners, which include John Oxendine, Karen Handel and Eric Johnson. He's still not well known in South Georgia, and opponents keep pounding on conflict of interest and ethical charges.

I keep hearing current frontrunner Oxendine's numbers keep dropping and continuing speculation he might not even make the runoff. Supporters say he's got the name recognition and money necessary and the only question is who will be in the runoff with him. Who's right? Who knows?

Handel has Gov. Sonny Perdue's support, which can be a big asset despite talk she would likely not change most of his department head appointments such as revenue commissioner, regents, education, highway related boards, etc. Numbers say many of these offices need changing.

The only thing I'm hearing so far about Johnson is he may be the dark horse. Those I have heard talk about it don't give any specific reasons, just a sense he may be.

There are a lot of down-ticket races on both sides. We'll get to them next time and pass on any updates on these.

Ted Oglesby is retired associate and opinion editor of The Times. You can contact him at P.O. Box 663, Gainesville, GA 30503. His column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and on