Georgia Primaries: Stay Tuned for Round Two

by Jessica Taylor August 1, 2012 · 11:18 AM EDT

The Peach State provided only minimal clarity on Tuesday, with no candidate reaching the 50 percent threshold to win outright in the two most closely-watched House races.

In the 12th District contest, state Rep. Lee Anderson (34 percent) and wealthy construction company owner Rick Allen (26 percent) advanced to the August 21 runoff to determine who faces endangered Rep. John Barrow (D), who saw his district stripped of its Savannah stronghold in redistricting, picking up an 11-point GOP tilt in the process, one of the most striking shifts in the country.

The GOP race in the redrawn district was slow to come into focus, and either candidate has an opportunity to win in the runoff. There are stark differences between the two, though -- Anderson comes from the more rural part of the district and could have better appeal to the farming community, while the wealthy Allen may have trouble connecting with that sector of the electorate.

Barrow will be a formidable candidate, and he will dwarf either possible Republican with his nearly $1.4 million bank account. The GOP nominee also will start with a name ID deficit, but national Republicans have committed to spend big here, in contrast to 2010 when they didn’t invest in the more Democratic district. Even if Barrow runs a flawless campaign, it may still not be enough in this type of district, and we currently rate this race as Lean Republican.

In the new 9th District, the bitter contest between state Rep. Doug Collins and radio host Martha Zoller is also headed to overtime as the pair was separated by just over 700 votes, after a third candidate in the race, school principal Roger Fitzpatrick, took enough of the vote to hold both under the 50 percent threshold. Collins was narrowly ahead with 41.8 percent of the vote to Zoller’s 41.1 percent.

Collins was viewed as the establishment candidate and has been an ally of Gov. Nathan Deal’s (R) in the legislature, but Zoller is a well-known name -- and voice-- throughout the metro area thanks to her years on conservative talk radio, and received endorsements from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and had much of the tea party support in the race.

The August 21 runoff looks like a toss-up between Collins and Zoller and the three-week sprint will likely be ripe with animosity. Both have struggled to raise money, but whoever emerges from the grudge match will be virtually assured a spot in the 113th Congress from this solidly Republican district.