ATLANTA — Former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, unable to overcome his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, conceded defeat Tuesday in Georgia's Republican primary race for lieutenant governor.
Reed was making his first bid for elective office after working for years as a behind-the-scenes campaign strategist and leader of the Christian Coalition and the state Republican Party.
Opponent State Sen. Casey Cagle hammered away at Reed's connections to Abramoff and asked whether Reed could face criminal charges for accepting more than $5.3 million from two Indian tribes. Reed has said repeatedly that he regrets the work he did with Abramoff. A two-year Senate probe cleared him, Reed said.
"If good, decent people offer themselves in this state for public office, we can make this state a better place," Cagle said as he declared victory.
An upbeat Reed told a few dozen cheering supporters that though his candidacy had ended, his conservative message would live on. "Stay in the fight. Don't retreat. And our values will win in November," he said.
Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, facing her first election since a scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer, will face a runoff with her main challenger, Hank Johnson, a former county commissioner with roots in her core constituency.