Senate candidates campaign in Ga.'s GOP stronghold

Associated Press Published:

BUFORD, Ga. -- Candidates in Georgia's fiercely contested Republican Senate race sought votes in one of the most solidly Republican areas in the country on Saturday, just days ahead of a primary that could help determine congressional control.

Reps. Paul Broun and Jack Kingston along with Georgia's former Secretary of State Karen Handel worked the crowd at a barbecue and fundraiser hosted by Gov. Nathan Deal in northern Georgia. The GOP stronghold is key to winning Tuesday's primary.

Republicans need to gain just six seats to claim a majority in the Senate. They cannot afford to lose the Georgia seat, which opened when Sen. Saxby Chambliss announced his retirement. Other Republicans in the race are Rep. Phil Gingrey and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue.

"There are a lot of votes in north Georgia, and nobody running for Senate is from one of those districts," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, who attended Deal's annual "Grillin' with the Governor" event and will be up for re-election in two years. "It's open territory."

Nearly a quarter of all Republican voters in the 2012 primary live in the two north Georgia congressional districts, and the top three elected state officials -- Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and state House speaker David Ralston -- call the area home. It's a reliable base of fiscal and social conservatives.

Meanwhile, Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, did not attend a separate WSB-TV debate for the Democratic candidates in the Senate race. Nunn is likely to advance in her primary against three lesser-known candidates. Her campaign cited a scheduling conflict.

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Follow Christina A. Cassidy on Twitter: http://twitter.com/AP_Christina.

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