Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, unable to overcome his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, conceded defeat Tuesday in Georgia’s Republican race for lieutenant governor.
In Alabama, George Wallace Jr. — son of the legendary Alabama governor and presidential candidate — lost his bid for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor to Luther Strange, a first-time candidate.
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.
“If good decent people offer themselves in this state for public office, we can make this state a better place,” Cagle said as he declared victory.
An upbeat Reed told a crowd of a few dozen cheering supporters that, although his candidacy had ended, his conservative message will live on.
“Stay in the fight. Don’t retreat. And our values will win in November,” he said.
With 69 percent of precincts reporting, Cagle had 148,456 votes, or 56 percent, and Reed had 115,125, or 44 percent.
Crossing party lines
Reed’s campaign prompted some Democrats to cross party lines Tuesday to keep him off the GOP ticket. Lifelong Democrat Randy New, 52, of Atlanta said he cast a ballot in a Republican primary for the first time for one reason — to defeat Reed. He added that he sent out an e-mail to friends and business associates this week encouraging them to do the same.
In Georgia voters may request a ballot from either party in the primaries.
In the Alabama race, with 83 percent of the precincts reporting statewide, the unofficial count showed Strange had 90,201 votes, or 55 percent, and Wallace with 73,417 votes, or 45 percent.
Also, Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney 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.
With more than a third of the votes in, the state’s first black woman elected to Congress was in a dead heat with former DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson Jr., who is also black.