By GREG BLUESTEIN
Associated Press Writer
ATLANTA -- Former prosecutor Ken Hodges scored a resounding victory Tuesday over rival state Rep. Rob Teilhet in the Democratic race for the state's first open attorney general's seat in more than 60 years.
Unofficial returns show Hodges winning 65 percent of the vote with 97 percent of the precincts reporting, giving him an overwhelming win in what was one of the most heated races in Georgia's primary election season. Teilhet generated controversy when he ran an emotional attack ad featuring a grieving mother who claimed Hodges made mistakes in a high-profile case involving the death of her son. Hodges countered that Teilhet was exploiting the victim for political gain.
"I think the voters of this state certainly rejected negative politics and they decided this was about experience, not about politics," Hodges said after his victory Tuesday night. "They thought it was about seeking justice -- not about seeking office."
Hodges will face the winner of an Aug. 10 runoff between Cobb County Commission Chairman Sam Olens and state Sen. Preston Smith in the general election. Olens had 40 percent of the vote and State Sen. Preston Smith took 31 percent to come in second, ahead of ex-U.S. Attorney Max Wood. A runoff involving the top two vote-getters is required if none of the candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote.
In another high-profile race, Democrat Carol Porter won her party's nomination Tuesday for the right to challenge Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle for the state's No. 2 job. Porter, the wife of House Minority Leader and gubernatorial hopeful, DuBose Porter, has run her husband's political campaigns for 26 years and decided, this year, to run herself for the first time. She leads political newcomer Trish McCracken of Augusta with 70 percent of the vote.
In November she'll face Cagle, who had no GOP opposition and breezed to the November election with more than $800,000 in his campaign coffers. The former state senator became the state's first GOP lieutenant governor in 2006 and was an early front-runner for the governor's race before he decided to run for re-election instead.
Two Republicans and three Democrats competed for spots in the general election race for the state's top education post -- which was thrown wide open after incumbent Kathy Cox resigned in May. Democrat Joe Martin -- a longtime Atlanta school board member who previously ran for the job -- enjoyed the most name recognition and won a spot in the November contest. He earned 55 percent of the vote, edging out former Georgia State University administrator Beth Farokhi and high school teacher Brian Westlake.
On the Republican side, Bartow County schools administrator John Barge earned 52 percent of the vote to defeat Irwin County schools official Richard Woods.
In another closely watched race, Secretary of State Brian Kemp earned the Republican nod as he sought to defend his seat for the first time since he was appointed in January after Karen Handel resigned to run for governor. Kemp, a former state senator, had 59 percent of the vote to lead former Sandy Springs Councilman Doug MacGinnitie.
State Sen. Gail Buckner led the crowded Democratic field with 35 percent of the vote. She'll advance to a runoff against state Rep. Georganna Sinkfield, of Atlanta, who clinched second place with about 22 percent of the vote. Also running were attorney Gary Horlacher, public relations consultant Michael Mills, and business owner Angela Moore.
Perhaps the most buzzed-about down-ticket race, though, was the contest between Hodges and Teilhet -- a rivalry that was inflamed by that controversial ad that features Emily Walker criticizing Hodges for failing to secure a grand jury indictment against the deputy who shot and killed her unarmed son, Kenneth.
While Teilhet's 30-second ad earned him national media attention, it may have turned off some voters. Unofficial returns show Teilhet was defeated even in his native Cobb County.
Ward Bins, a 38-year-old, who owns an Atlanta web development company, said Tuesday he was disgusted by Teilhet's ad, and voted for Hodges because he thinks Hodges has more experience.
"He can't be held responsible for what a grand jury does," Bins said. "I thought he was unfairly attacked."