Establishment and tea party candidates head to runoff in Georgia 9

On Tuesday, what is unarguably Georgia???s hardest-fought Republican nomination battle — and the only such contest reported on so widely outside the Peach State — will be decided. Voters will choose whether the Republican nominee for Congress in the newly-carved 9th District is State Rep. Doug Collins, the legislative ???point man??? for GOP Gov. Nathan Deal, or Martha Zoller, popular radio talk show host and longtime conservative activist. The district contains 20 counties or parts of them and, since it is overwhelmingly Republican, the GOP nominee Tuesday will surely serve in the next Congress.

Last month, establishment favorite Collins and tea party favorite Zoller emerged from the first primary in a near tie, with the legislator leading the broadcaster by about 700 votes (or 42 to 41 percent respectively). Third place finisher (17 percent) Roger Fitzpatrick has since made it clear he will endorse neither in the run-off, although ???many of his supporters are now working hard for me,??? Zoller told Human Events.

Like most Georgia GOP legislators, Collins sports an overall conservative voting record. He also carries the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. Working against him is his perception as an ???insider,??? something underscored by robocalls praising him (although stopping short of an endorsement) from Gov. Deal, who lives in the 9th. In addition, Collins supported placing the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Tax (TSPLOT) to fund transportation projects on the ballot. This is a measure that national anti-tax advocates such as Grover Norquist as well as local ???ax-the-taxers??? opposed vociferously and which went down to landslide defeat when it was on the ballot last month.

???And for the past two weeks, people have been coming up to me saying ???You???re like Paul Ryan,?????? Zoller told Human Events between campaign stops Saturday. ???Just as he has the ???Path to Prosperity??? budget, I have had the ???Map for Prosperity,??? spelling out an agenda that includes tax reform, term limits for lawmakers, deregulation, and greater citizen engagement. When you stand for things, people respond to you.???

Zoller has always emphasized her platoons of conservative volunteers from tea party groups, the pro-life movement, and similar activist outlets. And, yes, they do work out of a storefront headquarters. But she also has national support, including the blessings of Sarah Palin, She-PAC, and Citizens United. Zoller also has the support of former presidential candidates Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

In their initial primary bout, Collins hit Zoller hard with a website branding some of her statements on issues as ???zany??? and appearing to show the conservative broadcaster as favoring same-sex marriage and abortion. Zoller attacked the charges as ???ridiculous??? and noted that in phrasing questions to guests on her radio show, she often had to ???play devil???s advocate. If I had the views my opponent is trying to imply I do, I wouldn???t have the support of Georgia Right-to-Life or the Susan B. Anthony List.???

Zoller told us that the broadsides against her from the Collins camp have continued into the run-off campaign. A spokeswoman for Collins said he stands by the website.

Tuesday night, what many are calling the meanest and most spirited GOP primary for anything since Georgia became a reliably Republican state will be over. Whether the nominee in the 9th District is Martha Zoller or Doug Collins, one is sure to hear the results discussed, in Georgia and nationally.