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Hawkins, Graves pour more into campaigns
In recent contribution filings, the candidates are neck-and-neck
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In a contest to raise cash for Republican candidates vying to be the next 9th District U.S. representative, state Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, and state Rep. Tom Graves are neck-and-neck.

Hawkins, one of the newest members in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, raised $155,719 in campaign contributions this quarter.

And with a loan of $145,320, the senator has more than $280,000 for his campaign, according to a report he filed with the Federal Election Commission this week.

In a statement he released Thursday, Hawkins called the loan a "personal financial commitment" to his campaign.

"Our campaign’s high number of donors reflects my desire to run a campaign focused on listening to everyday, hard-working Americans — Americans that are not writing large checks but are giving what they can, when they can," Hawkins said. "Now, more than ever, families are faced with decisions about how to budget their money. I believe it is important for me to make a personal commitment to my own campaign before asking others to invest in it."

Graves, R-Ranger, has nearly as much cash as Hawkins on hand. A report Graves filed with the commission shows he raised more than $279,000 by the Sept. 30 reporting deadline. By the deadline, Graves had $193,996 on hand.

Graves’ report contains no loans.

In a statement released Friday, Graves’ campaign said the reports showed his campaign had picked up momentum this quarter. The campaign has more than 350 volunteers and is organized in all counties of the district, according to the statement.

"... North Georgians have joined our campaign because they know this election is critical to preserving our conservative values and protecting our children’s and grandchildren’s future," Graves said in the statement.

Graves has been in the race since May. Hawkins announced in July that he would seek the seat being vacated by Deal, a Republican from Gainesville who has been a congressman for 13 years. Deal is not seeking re-election for the House seat, as he is running for governor of Georgia in 2010.

Seven candidates have registered with the Federal Election Commission to seek Deal’s seat. Six of them are Republicans. The seventh, Eugene Moon of Gainesville, is an independent conservative.

Moon reported no contributions by the Sept. 30 reporting deadline.

Mike Evans, R-Cumming, had raised more than $202,000 for the race by the Sept. 30 deadline. The former Department of Transportation Chairman has raised approximately $52,000 since June 30.

Former state Senate Majority Leader Bill Stephens, R-Cumming, had not raised any money since the $40,095 June 30 campaign reporting deadline, according to the Federal Election Commission.

A statement Stephens released Thursday called the race "a marathon and not a sprint" and indicated that Stephens recently made changes to his campaign staff.

"We are confident that the ground we cover over the next several months and the changes we have made organizationally will provide us with the necessary means to win," Stephens’ statement read.