Rep. Graves hails Engineered Floors expansion

Tom Graves

ATLANTA — Republican Rep. Tom Graves has clinched the GOP nomination for north Georgia’s congressional seat, winning his fourth election in three months.

In unofficial returns, Graves defeated fellow Republican Lee Hawkins 55 percent to 45 percent with 92 percent of precincts reporting.

Graves advances to the November general election for a full, two-year term in the House. No Democrat is on the ballot.

The 40-year-old from Ranger won a special election in June to fill the remaining months in the term of Nathan Deal, a longtime congressman who stepped down to run for governor.

Graves’ victory marked his fourth consecutive win over Hawkins, a dentist and former state senator.

GOP voters also picked state Sen. Ralph Hudgens as their nominee for the open insurance commissioner seat, while Democrats chose state Rep. Georganna Sinkfield to challenge Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp in November for a term as the state’s top election official.

Republican voters also gave conservative activist Tim Echols an early lead in his bid for a spot on the Public Service Commission.

In the campaign for secretary of state, Sinkfield defeated Sen. Gail Buckner with 59 percent of the vote. Sinkfield will face Kemp, a former state senator from Athens who was appointed to the office in January after Karen Handel resigned to run for governor.

Hudgens edged out attorney Maria Sheffield, attracting about 55 percent of the vote. The two emerged from a crowded, nine-person GOP primary in the campaign to succeed John Oxendine, who also decided to run for governor.

Both Republicans vowed to oppose Obama’s sweeping health care plan, but Hudgens emphasized his experience as the chair of the Senate Insurance Committee.

Hudgens will face Democrat Mary Squires, who ran unopposed in her party’s primary.

In the PSC race, conservative activist Tim Echols opened an early lead against state Sen. John Douglas, as unofficial returns showed him capturing 52 percent of the vote.

Both candidates said they will fight to protect consumer rights and work to maintain reasonable utility rates. The winner will face Democrat Keith Moffett in November to take the seat held by the retiring Bobby Baker, widely known as the panel’s most vocal consumer advocate.