A North Georgia candidate for Congress picked up a heavy-hitting endorsement Wednesday, which his opponent says is more evidence of Washington-based influence manipulating the campaign.

Former U.S. Rep. and House Majority Leader Dick Armey threw his weight behind Tom Graves, a former Republican state representative from Ranger, in a teleconference with the 9th District candidate Wednesday morning.

Mr. Graves is running against Gainesville dentist and former state Sen. Lee Hawkins in a June 8 runoff to fill the remaining months of the term for Georgia's 9th Congressional District. The two will face off again with three other Republicans in the general primary on July 20.

Mr. Armey, chairman of the conservative FreedomWorks political action committee, said he and his group support Mr. Graves because of his "creative thinking and willingness to work with ideas" as well as his stance on taxes. Mr. Armey praised Mr. Graves' jobs bill, because if signed into law it would help small businesses by cutting taxes, he said.

"That is probably as smart a tax cut as you can find," Mr. Armey said.

Mr. Graves thanked his newest supporter for a "powerful" endorsement.

"They don't make endorsements just to make endorsements," Mr. Graves said.

Dr. Hawkins said the people in the 9th District should be the ones deciding who represents them.


June 8 - Runoff election for 9th District seat

July 20 - General primary election for seat

"It's just sort of a continuation of the same with people from outside the state trying to influence a congressional race," he said.

The Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth ran ads attacking Dr. Hawkins before the special election that he said unfairly characterize his stance on health care reform.

Mr. Armey said the PAC will fund activists and support the Graves campaign, but it will not be buying any advertising space.

"We will be working in this race ... but not in the conventional way," he said.

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