REPUBLICAN firebrand Newt Gingrich won a narrow victory Tuesday over a congressional primary challenger who ridiculed him for writing bad checks and using a chauffeured limousine.
Democratic Rep. Ben Jones lost in his bid for renomination and Rep. Charles Hatcher was forced into a runoff as several Georgia incumbents ran into trouble in redrawn districts. A third Democrat, Rep. Richard Ray, appeared to be barely averting a runoff.
Paul Coverdell, a former Peace Corps director, led a five-way Republican primary and was thrown into a runoff for the right to challenge Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler Jr.
Mr. Gingrich, the House minority whip and Georgia's only Republican in Congress, edged Herman Clark, a lawyer who served five years in the state Legislature. Gingrich, seeking an eighth term, was running in a redrawn, predominantly white district in Atlanta's northern suburbs.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Gingrich had 35,571 votes or 51 percent, and Mr. Clark had 34,599 votes or 49 percent. A few hundred absentee votes remained to be counted, not enough to affect the outcome.
In many of the contests on the crowded ballot, an Aug. 11 runoff seemed inevitable. Under Georgia law, candidates need a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff with the second-place finisher.
Mr. Jones, a former actor who played "Cooter" on television's "The Dukes of Hazzard," ran far behind legislator Don Johnson in a five-way race. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Johnson had 41,544 votes or 51 percent, Jones had 24,827 votes or 31 percent, and the three others divided the rest.
Johnson, chairman of the state Senate Appropriations Committee, accused Jones of working for perks and privileges and being out of touch with voters in east Georgia's 10th District.
Jones, seeking a third term, defended his voting record and accused his opponent of turning the race negative.