Martin Set to Face Off Against Chambliss

Posted August 5, 2008 at 9:01pm

After a three-week primary runoff, Georgia Democrats overwhelmingly picked former state Rep. Jim Martin on Tuesday as their choice to do battle with Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) in November. Martin and DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer Vernon Jones were the top two vote-getters in the Peach State’s crowded July 15 Democratic primary. But while Jones polled 6 points ahead of Martin three weeks ago, Martin easily defeated Jones on Tuesday night, taking 60 percent to Jones’ 40 percent, with 88 percent of precincts reporting. Jones, who did not win his home county of DeKalb, conceded to Martin around 9:30 p.m. Martin, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, has been the favorite of the state political establishment as well as national Democratic leaders. But Jones, who is black, was expected to poll well, especially among Georgia’s large African-American population. Over the past few weeks, Martin had earned key endorsements from two of the Democratic candidates who did not make the runoff as well as from the state AFL-CIO and well-known civil rights leaders. He had also attacked Jones for voting for President Bush in both 2000 and 2004. Martin now faces an uphill battle against the well-funded and well-established Chambliss. At the end of June, the first-term Senator had more than $4 million in cash on hand for his re-election campaign. So although some observers believe Georgia could become a key battleground in the presidential contest, the Peach State Senate race is not currently considered a top pickup opportunity for Democrats. However, because Senate Democrats have a large cash-on-hand advantage over Republicans, it remains to be seen whether they might decide to invest in the Georgia contest now that they have their desired nominee. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) indicated that might be the case with Martin’s win. “Georgians chose an impressive candidate today who has the experience and vision to change the direction of our nation,” Schumer said in a statement. “As a public servant under both a Democratic and a Republican governor, Jim has a proven record of working across party lines, and he will be an effective and independent voice for Georgia families. This is a winnable race.” Stay tuned to RollCall.com for updates on tonight’s primary results in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri.