ATLANTA (AP) — Iraq and immigration have dominated the special election to replace deceased Republican Rep. Charlie Norwood in northeast Georgia — a contest that could be a harbinger of congressional campaigns next year.
Ten candidates — six Republicans, three Democrats and a Libertarian — have lined up to represent the 10th Congressional District. The election on Tuesday is the first congressional contest since the Democrats won control of Congress last year, and it will be watched closely for any clues it might provide to the 2008 elections.
A strong Democratic showing in the Republican-leaning district could spell more trouble for Republicans next year as the war in Iraq continues.
It’s quite possible a winner won’t be chosen right away. Unless one of the candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the race will be decided by a runoff July 17.
The race’s odds-on favorite is former state Sen. Jim Whitehead, a small businessman from Evans, just outside Augusta, who has lined up the support of much of the Republican establishment.
The blunt-spoken Mr. Norwood — who died in February after battling cancer and lung disease — is still beloved in the district he represented since 1994, and Mr. Whitehead has won the critical endorsement of his widow, Gloria. In an ad running on local radio, Mrs. Norwood extolled Mr. Whitehead as “a friend.”
“He’s as conservative as Charlie and almost as independent,” she said.
The top Democrat in the race, James Marlow, of Lincolnton, has hammered away at Mr. Whitehead for minimizing the war. Mr. Marlow, an Internet businessman, is seeking to capitalize on discontent with the war, even among Republicans.
“The quicker we have an honorable exit from Iraq the better,” he said.
The state Democratic Party has taken the unusual step of endorsing Mr. Marlow, although there are two other lesser-known Democrats running — Evita Paschall of Evans and Denise Freeman of Tignall. Party Chairwoman Jane Kidd is hoping that party unity will catapult Mr. Marlow into a runoff.
The candidates have tripped over themselves to appear tough on immigration, many denouncing the compromise plan being pushed by President Bush.
Nate Pulliam, a Republican from Conyers, called the bill “the George Bush, Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson amnesty bill,” referring to the state’s two Republican U.S. senators who have both supported the measure.
Also in the race is Athens doctor Paul Broun. The son of a popular former Democratic state senator from the area, he has high name recognition and is running as a Republican.
Also lining up on the Republican side are Mark Myers of Loganville, Bill Greene from Braselton and Erik Underwood of Atlanta.