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Deal casts vote in GOP runoff for governor
Longtime U.S. representative from Gainesville faces Handel for nomination
Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal casts his ballot at Wauka Mountain Elementary School this morning. - photo by Tom Reed

Visit throughout the evening for up-to-the-minute election returns and complete coverage of the runoff.

Making sure at least one vote in the Republican runoff for governor would be cast in his name today, Nathan Deal performed his civic duty this morning at Wauka Mountain Elementary School.

The decisions made at polls across the state today will decide whether Deal or his opponent, former Secretary of State Karen Handel, will move on to November's general election.

The race between the two has tightened in recent weeks after Handel finished the July primary 11 percentage points ahead of Deal but without enough votes to secure the Republican Party nomination.

As they did three weeks ago, Deal and his wife, Sandra, arrived to vote just before 10 a.m. at the school in northern Hall County, where they said all four of their children attended primary school.

Leaving the polls, Deal was immediately surrounded by reporters who quickly went to work attaching microphones to his lapel.

"I feel like I'm having a cardiogram," Deal joked.

The attention would ensure the candidate a spot on televised noon newscasts, seven hours before polls close across the state.

Voters awareness off the election - and furthermore, their appearance at the polls - is important to any candidate seeking his or her party's nomination today.

For Deal, winning will take, simply, "enough voters come turn out and vote for me," he said.

Voters are notorious for being absent from the polls in runoff elections. The former congressman said contested congressional races in both the state's 7th and 9th U.S. House districts might bode well for him.

Deal represented the 9th District for 17 years in the U.S. House and has the endorsement of outgoing U.S. Rep. John Linder from the 7th District.

"It's a pretty day. There's not many excuses for not voting today," he said.

The Associated Press reported Monday that more than 78,000 voters cast their ballots in the runoff election by mail or in person and that another 25,000 mail-in ballots that are still outstanding.

Cobb County voters had the highest turnout in the early voting process with some 6,249 voters. Fulton County had about 3,800 voters and Forsyth County had another 3,700 voters. Hall County and Gwinnett County rounded out the top five.

Handel, also a former Fulton County commissioner, carried both Fulton and Forsyth counties in July's primary.

The rest of Deal's day, he said, would be spent attending a local Kiwanis Club meeting, speaking on a few radio shows and grooming for a 7 p.m. campaign party.

"Would you believe I'm going to get a haircut - finally?" Deal said with a laugh. "It's going to slow down enough that I can go to the barber shop."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.