Controversial McKinney fails to avoid runoff

(Gold9472: McKinney is "Controversial"? I think a President who gets off on the murder of civilians is "Controversial".)

Associated Press

ATLANTA - Democratic firebrand Rep. Cynthia McKinney started preparing Wednesday for a surprise runoff with former DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson, who has deep roots in the heart of her core constitency.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, McKinney finished with 47 percent of the vote to Johnson's 45 percent.

"We've been here before, but you know what? It is impossible to keep a good woman down," McKinney told cheering supporters, shortly after dancing and playing a tambourine.

"I intend to fight the good fight. I will continue to tell the truth and I will challenge anyone who dares to destroy anything about the work that I do. ... This battle is now engaged, and we intend to win."

Tuesday's primary was the first time that McKinney faced voters since her scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer in March. Four years ago, McKinney was upset in the Democratic primary by political newcomer Denise Majette, who vacated the seat after one term to run for the Senate, opening the door for McKinney's return to Congress.

Some of Tuesday's voters said McKinney, who is seeking her seventh term, was an embarrassment and not representative of her suburban Atlanta district.

"I don't think she's a worthy representative. I just think she's a radical," said David Schmieder, a 61-year-old professor at Georgia Tech. "I would have voted anyway, but I would normally have voted in the Republican primary."

The Republican crossover vote was key in McKinney's primary defeat in 2002, when Majette won by promising not to embarrass her constituents as Majette claimed McKinney had done for a decade. However, that was not believed to have been as much of a factor in this week's primary because of some high-profile statewide races on the GOP ballot.

What is at stake in the runoff is McKinney's core constituency, which Johnson has targeted to oust the incumbent. South DeKalb County is home to Johnson's law firm and some of the country's most affluent blacks.

McKinney was largely criticized for questioning the Bush administration's advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks, claiming the president allowed them to happen so his friends could profit from the bloodshed.

At her party, McKinney continued to flaunt her opposition to the Iraq war. She entered the auditorium with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and also was joined by Patricia Roberts, whose son, Jamaal Addison, was the first Georgia soldier killed in the war.

In March, McKinney made national headlines when she struck an officer who stopped her when he didn't recognize her as she entered a House office building. A federal grand jury in Washington declined to indict the congresswoman, but she was forced to apologize on the floor of the House.

Some political observers said the scuffle helped reinforce her image in her mostly black suburban Atlanta district as someone unafraid to stand up against authority.

"I voted for her because of her strong background and her strong voice. If you look at her strong background, you won't judge her for what's happened recently," said Shadana Abernathy, a 29-year-old single mother who planned to take her two young boys swimming after voting at a school in south Decatur.

The first black woman elected to Congress from Georgia, McKinney also was challenged in the primary by John Coyne, an architect, who drawing 9 percent of the vote, enough to force the runoff between McKinney and Johnson.

The Democratic nominee would all but be assured a win in November in the heavily Democratic district.

In other contested congressional primaries, Republican one-term Rep. Tom Price of Roswell and Democrat two-term Rep. David Scott of Atlanta easily won over little-known challengers.

Former six-term Rep. Mac Collins won the Republican nomination in a redrawn district represented by two-term Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall of Macon.

Collins, who left Congress in 2004 during his unsuccessful bid for the Senate and whose hometown of Jackson has since been moved into Marshall's district, defeated little-known James Neal Harris of Gray in Tuesday's primary.