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Graves on top in runoff
Candidates meet again next month
6 Runoff pic2
Lee Hawkins of Gainesville stands next to his family last Tuesday night as he thanks supporters at the Holiday Inn in Gainesville shortly after his opponent Tom Graves was announced the winner of the 9th District U.S. House special election runoff. The two men and five other Republicans are on the July 20 primary ballot for a full term in the post. - photo by Scott Rogers DCN Regional Staff

In this week’s print edition:

  

Profiles of regional candidates in the July 20 primary.

Former state Rep. Tom Graves defeated former state Sen. Lee Hawkins in the June 8 runoff election to fill the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives through the end of the year.

  

Graves won the special election with more than 56 percent of the vote districtwide to serve out the remainder of former Rep. Nathan Deal’s term in Congress. He was sworn in Monday night at the Capitol.

  

Hawkins, who won Dawson County with 713 of the 1,353 votes cast, trailed with nearly 44 percent of the total district vote.

  

Graves, Hawkins and five other contenders are on the ballot in the July 20 primary for a full, two-year term in Congress.

  

“We’re certainly very excited about the outcome of the election and look forward to representing the 9th Congressional District as a bold voice in Washington and we’ve had a great campaign, an exciting campaign, and we’re very pleased with the outcome,” Graves said.

  

He believes the promising results from the special election are a good sign of future success.

  

“I think the results we see tonight will be very similar to what you would see moving forward as we continue to represent now the district just the same way as we’ve campaigned,” Graves said.

  

“We’ll continue working hard to earn the trust of voters all throughout the district as we move forward in the next six weeks.”

  

Graves, 40, is a Republican from Ranger. He was in his fourth term in the state House when he resigned to run for the U.S. House. He owns and manages multifamily housing and commercial real estate properties.

  

Graves said he and his campaign team are working on plans for the next few months of the busy election season.

  

“I think the fact that the voters have expressed their support of our candidacy through two elections shows that our message resonates with voters here in North Georgia,” Graves said.

  

Hawkins said he saw some positive signs from runoff election results.

  

“The results show that we gained ground in every county and moved forward,” Hawkins said. “We will continue to do that up to the July 20 primary.

  

“We’ll continue to get through the district and shake hands and meet people face to face and that will bring us up even more in the polls.”

  

The 59-year-old Republican is a dentist in Gainesville. He was elected to the Georgia Senate in 2004 and resigned the position this year to run for Congress.

  

“I really appreciate the support of my family and everyone who’s worked in the campaign and the community of the 9th District,” Hawkins said.

  

“We have run with integrity and honor and we will continue to do so.”

Hawkins believes Graves will have an uphill battle in the upcoming primary election.

  

Graves is facing a lawsuit from a Georgia bank accusing him and fellow Republican Rep. Chip Rogers of failing to repay a $2.3 million loan used to buy a budget motel.

  

“A lot of this did not get through the western [portion of the] district ... as time goes by this will be more widely known,” Hawkins said.

  

Results varied across the conservative 15-county district.

  

Graves was a clear favorite in Forsyth County, where he took 5,000 plus of the more than 8,000 votes in the county.

  

Likewise, Hawkins easily beat Graves in his home county of Hall, where voters gave him more than 7,400 of the 12,229 votes.

  

In the May 11 special election, Graves and Hawkins received the most votes of eight hopefuls, with Graves taking 35.4 percent of the vote to Hawkins’ 23.2 percent.

  

In what has been a competitive race, Graves has touted his support from strong conservative groups such as the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots and the anti-tax Washington group Club for Growth.

  

Hawkins has sought to beef up his own conservative ties, arguing for fewer government agencies and bureaucracy.

  

Both men say they would oppose President Barack Obama’s health care plan and many other Democratic initiatives.

  

The two candidates will face off against three other Republicans — Chris Cates, Bobby Reese and Steve Tarvin — in the July 20 state primary.

  

Bert Loftman and Bill Stephens had each qualified for the primary as well, but have since removed themselves from the race, though both of their names remain on the ballot.

  

The winner will earn a full term in the House. No Democrats qualified.

  

All but Reese also ran in the special election.

  

When Graves was sworn in Monday, he become just the district’s fourth representative in 57 years.

  

Deal held the seat since 1993, following Ed Jenkins (1977-93) and the late Phil Landrum (1953-77).

  

DCN regional staff contributed to this article.

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