As expected, the special election to replace former Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.) is headed to a June 8 runoff after no candidate in the crowded all-party field was able to break 50 percent Tuesday night.
With 97 percent reporting, former state Rep. Tom Graves (R) had 34 percent and former state Sen. Lee Hawkins (R) had 23 percent. The Associated Press called the race as headed to a runoff with 80 percent reporting.
Graves strong performance on Tuesday will likely be viewed as another sign of vitality of the tea party movement. Graves, a developer, built much of his campaign around courting that vote and touting his endorsement from the powerful anti-tax group the Club for Growth. His double-digit lead over Hawkins came just three days after the tea party and Club for Growth scored a resounding victory by knocking off three-term Sen. Bob Bennett in Utahs state GOP nominating convention. Hawkins, a dentist, positioned himself as a more mainstream conservative in the race to replace Deal.
Even with the results Tuesday none of the candidates will be resting easy anytime soon. All the Republicans competing Tuesday night are also seeking the GOP nomination in the July primary. The winner of that contest will be heavily favored to win a full term in November.