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Turnout seen as crucial to runoff victory
With low numbers expected, candidates appeal to faithful
Carolyn Ward and husband Keith of Gainesville cast their ballot Friday at the Hall County Elections Office during early voting for the general primary runoff election. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Walk this way

By: Jeff Gill

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Early voting

What: General primary runoff election
When: Through Friday
Where: Hall County Board of Elections and Registrars, 2285 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays
Who votes: All registered voters are eligible, even if they did not vote in the July 20 primary

Who’s on the runoff ballot

Governor: Nathan Deal, Karen Handel
Attorney General: Sam Olens, Preston Smith
Insurance Commissioner: Ralph T. Hudgens, Maria Sheffield
Public Service Commission, District 2: Tim Echols, John Douglas
U.S. House of Representatives, 9th District: Tom Graves (I), Lee Hawkins
Hall County Commission Post 1: Bobby Banks (I), Craig Lutz
Dawson County Clerk of Courts: Justin Power, Gaye Cantrell

Secretary of State: Gail Buckner, Georganna Sinkfield


Click here for more elections coverage.

With low voter turnout expected for the Aug. 10 runoff election, candidates need to work twice as hard to woo support from those who come to the polls — because in this race, every vote counts.

Early voting has already started for the election, and Hall County Interim Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee projects turnout to be about 12 percent.

For Douglas Young, political science professor at Gainesville State College, such low turnout means candidates need to focus on winning the votes of the parties’ most active participants.

“The people who are most likely to vote are going to be your super strong partisans,” Young said. “So I think to win in a runoff, it’s really important to get out your base. I don’t think at this point in the game a lot of people are going to change their minds.”

Some key voters will be those who chose losing candidates in the July primary, Young said. The runoff candidates need to focus on winning the support of those who voted for such people as runners-up Steve Tarvin in the 9th District U.S. House race or John Oxendine in the gubernatorial race.

Young said a press conference or a public statement from one of the losing candidates in support of a runoff candidate could be a game-changer.

“I suspect (voting) will be affected by whether Insurance Commissioner Oxendine or any of the other candidates that lost in the primary will get involved,” he said. “That could really bring out a lot of support of the candidate that didn’t make the runoff.”

The runoff includes the race between Karen Handel and Nathan Deal for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. It also marks the fourth time voters will choose between 9th District House candidates Tom Graves and Lee Hawkins, who met in a May special election and runoff three weeks later.

And some campaign representatives say having both of these hot-topic elections on the ballot could affect the race.

Kris Carroll, political director for the Hawkins campaign, said success is all about getting people to the polls, which she said might be easier with the gubernatorial race on the ballot, too.

“I think what is heavily in our favor is that it’s not just a runoff of the 9th District congressional candidates,” Carroll said. “There’s also the governor’s race, and those races are all of extreme importance to the people of North Georgia at this time.”

Tim Baker, campaign manager for Graves, said the governor’s race wouldn’t change the campaign strategy, however.

“It does energize additional people, but it doesn’t change what we’re going to do,” he said.

Brian Robinson, spokesman for the Deal campaign, said the 9th District race might bring more people to the polls in the northern part of the state. He said that would help Deal win the election, as he served as the 9th District representative for 18 years.

“The good news for Deal for Governor is that the vast majority of voters who come to the polls to vote for either Hawkins or Graves, no matter where they live in the 9th District, are more likely to cast a vote for Nathan,” Robinson said. “Those are the voters who know Nathan best.”

But Dan McLagen, spokesman for the Handel campaign, said though Deal may have done well in the 9th District, Handel has done well across the state.

“Her stronghold stretches across Georgia,” he said.

But for all of the candidates, getting as many voters to the polls as possible is a top priority.

“In a runoff election, turnout is the most important thing,” McLagen said. “And we are 100 percent focused on it like a laser.”