Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed struggled to overcome his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in his bid for the Republican nomination Tuesday for lieutenant governor of Georgia, while Democratic firebrand Rep. Cynthia McKinney faced the voters for the first time since her scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer.
Neighboring Alabama held a runoff in which George Wallace Jr. - son of the legendary Alabama governor and presidential candidate - sought the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor.
Reed was making his first bid for elective office after working for years as a behind-the-scenes campaign strategist and leading the Christian Coalition and the state Republican Party. He vied with state Sen. Casey Cagle for the GOP nomination in a primary race that appeared closer than expected in recent months because of Reed's work with Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud and corruption earlier this year.
In attack ads and televised debates, Cagle hammered away at Reed's connections to Abramoff, and asked whether Reed could face criminal charges for accepting more than $5.3 million from two Indian tribes.
Reed has not been charged with a crime and has said repeatedly that he regrets the work he did with Abramoff. Reed said he was vindicated by a two-year Senate probe.
McKinney, meanwhile, sought the nomination for a seventh term in Congress after the scuffle in March with an officer who stopped her when he didn't recognize her as she entered a House office building. A federal grand jury in Washington declined to indict the congresswoman, but she was forced to apologize on the floor of the House.
She was expected to prevail Tuesday against Democratic challengers Hank Johnson, a lawyer and former DeKalb County Commissioner, and John Coyne, an architect, with some political observers saying the scuffle helped reinforce her image in her mostly black suburban Atlanta district as someone unafraid to stand up against authority.
During her turbulent 12 years in Washington, McKinney, the first black woman elected to Congress from Georgia, has been criticized for suggesting, among other things, that the Bush administration had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Victory in the Democratic primary would all but assure a win in November in the heavily Democratic district.