- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia voters on Tuesday were deciding a contentious seven-way Republican primary for a U.S. Senate seat and a GOP primary for governor in which the incumbent, Nathan Deal, has faced relatively little opposition. Now attention turns to the general election, a test of whether Democratic candidates including the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter and the daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn can win back statewide offices.

The Associated Press interviewed voters across Georgia to hear what they considered important when making up their minds.

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Annelle McDuffee chose a proven record in Congress over promises from outsiders to shake up Washington when she cast her ballot Tuesday in the Republican primary for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat. It made her decision easier that her chosen candidate, Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah, has been the congressman next door for more than two decades.

“I felt like I knew him better,” said McDuffee, an 80-year-old retired church secretary from Pooler, a small city just west of Savannah where she cast her vote at city hall. “I’m all for term limits and I have doubts about some of the long-term people. But so often you go with who you know. And you can look up his record.”

McDuffee said her second choice for the Senate seat would have been businessman David Perdue, for pretty much the opposite reason she backed Kingston - “mostly because he has not been in Washington.”

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Sarah Roberts, 29, said she always voted for Republicans until the 2012 general election when she decided that Democrats aligned more closely with her views on the issues that are most important to her, and she voted for President Barack Obama. She got emotional outside her polling place in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead neighborhood as she talked about what matters most to her.

“I want Georgia to take care of residents that can’t care for themselves, that can’t afford insurance and can’t afford the care that other people get,” Roberts said, her voice catching.

She strongly disagrees with Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision not to expand the state’s eligibility rules for the Medicaid program as provided for in the health care law backed by Obama’s administration.

The race for governor was most important to Roberts in this election, and she was enthusiastic about supporting Democrat Jason Carter, who’s unopposed in his primary.

“He wants this state to succeed and wants it to be better for everyone who lives here,” Roberts said. “It’s time for us to have a Democratic governor and it’s time for a change. Deal’s no deal.”

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Jim Smith, 64, of Marietta voted for his local congressman, Phil Gingrey, in the Republican Senate primary. Smith said he wanted to avoid voting for candidates that he believed were overly negative.

“They started mudslinging and after they starting slinging mud, any of them that did that immediately lost my vote,” he said.

Smith said he does not agree with Gingrey on all issues, but he credited Gingrey for answering complaints and questions from constituents, even those like Smith that occasionally disagree with the congressman.

He said he also voted for Deal in the Republican primary for governor, though he said the governor had made mistakes.

“He had some shady dealings with stuff,” said Smith, who still preferred sticking with the incumbent. “Are you going to jump from the frying pan into the fire?”

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Marilyn Neff, a retired nurse from Marietta, backed Karen Handel in the GOP U.S. Senate primary because she said Handel mixes political experience with a new take on Congress.

“She could bring some fresh blood to Washington, and she’s been very successful politically,” Neff said.

She initially considered Reps. Paul Broun and Gingrey because of their conservative records but wasn’t swayed by their experience in Congress. Neff, 71, also briefly considered Perdue but bristled at his comments about Handel’s lack of a college degree.

“I just didn’t feel that was necessary to get his point across,” she said.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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