The most rancorous, hardest-fought, and most-watched Republican primary in Georgia ended with no clear winner Tuesday, as State Rep. Doug Collins and radio talk show host Martha Zoller now head for a runoff Aug. 21 in the newly-carved 9th U.S. House District. With about half the votes counted, Collins was leading Zoller by a slim 41.9 to 41.3 percent, with retired educator Roger Fitzpatrick drawing about 16.9 percent of the vote. Since no candidate won 51 percent, the top two votegetters compete in a runoff to determine the GOP nomination in the securely Republican 9th District.
Much of the press attention on the 9th stemmed from Zoller herself, a nationally-known conservative ‚??swashbuckler.‚?Ě In the race with Collins and Fitzpatrick, the candidate known as the ‚??First Lady of Talk Radio‚?Ě or just ‚??The Lady‚?Ě was backed by Sarah Palin, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Georgia Right to Life. Zoller was also backed by national conservative outlets such as the Susan B. Anthony List and SHE-PAC.
Collins never conceded anything on the right to Zoller. His spokeswoman Loree Anne Thompson told Human Events the day before the primary that ‚??Doug compiled a conservative record in his six years in the state legislature and stands by every vote. And he was supported by the National Rifle Association.”
The only two issues on which Colllins and Zoller disagreed were term limits — Collins against, Zoller for — and Collins‚?? vote to place a sales tax increase for transportation improvement on the ballot, which, he emphasized,was about the voters having their say and not a sign he favored the tax.
In the final days of the race, Collins was undoubtedly helped by a Website from his supporters showing clips of Zoller on television talk shows appearing to take non-conservative views on such issues as civil unions for same-sex couples and marijuana legalization and branding her ‚??zany.‚?Ě Zoller told Human Events this was ‚??grossly unfair,‚?Ě that ‚??as a talk show host, I sometimes had to take devil‚??s advocate views in interviews with guests and they certainly did not represent my views.‚?Ě Collins‚?? spokeswoman Thompson said the campaign stood by the website.
As a legislator, Collins was Gov. Nathan Deal‚??s quarterback on major issues before the State House. This no doubt helped him in a district where Deal was a popular congressman for many years before becoming governor in 2010. He also raised about $400,000 to Zoller‚??s $270,000.
As to who will win the Collins-Zoller showdown, it‚??s uncertain. No one knows what the turnout will be like in August. But if the primary was any clue, the final stage of the nomination battle is sure to be a rough-and-tumble brawl.