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Senate candidates preparing for runoff
Jim Martin
Jim Martin
ATLANTA — With a U.S. Senate seat in the balance, Fulton County elections officials continued to count absentee ballots at a warehouse in Atlanta on Thursday.
The outcome could determine whether Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss faces a Dec. 2 runoff to keep his seat. The current results show neither Chambliss or Democrat Jim Martin cracking the needed 50 percent plus one of the vote to claim a win.
Martin wasted no time getting into runoff mode on Thursday and immediately linked himself to Democratic president-elect Barack Obama.
A new campaign ad set to debut on television Friday features footage from an Obama speech then flashes to Martin, suggesting that former Georgia state lawmaker will help Obama “unite America” if he’s in the U.S. Senate.
“Jim Martin will work with Barack Obama to get our economy moving again,” the ad says.
Martin drew fire during his primary campaign for being a lukewarm Obama backer. He voted for Democratic Sen. John Edwards in Georgia’s Feb. 5 presidential primary even though the former North Carolina senator had already dropped out of the race.
Still, Martin will need to get Obama voters back to the polls in a runoff against Chambliss, experts said, and will likely be invoking his name and image regularly.
Republicans point out that GOP white House hopeful John McCain — not Obama — won Georgia on Election Day.
The Chambliss and Martin campaigns were anxiously watching the returns in Fulton County Thursday. The absentee ballots are believed to be the largest chunk of uncounted votes in Georgia.
There are still provisional ballots to be counted in some counties. Also military and overseas ballots must be received by county offices Friday and tallied. Secretary of State Karen Handel is expected to certify the election results next week.
Currently, Chambliss has 49.8 percent of the vote and Martin has 46.8 percent. Libertarian Allen Buckley pulled 3.4 percent of the vote.
Fulton County officials say they aren’t sure when the counting will conclude Thursday.
Seventy-nine workers were sitting at two long tables Thursday afternoon going through the ballots as workers rolled in elections machines for storage after Election Day.
The last Senate runoff in Georgia was 1992. Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler earned more votes on Election Day but was defeated by Republican Paul Coverdell in a runoff.

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