ALBANY, Ga. -- Prior to Tuesday's U.S. Congress District 2 Republican primary, state Rep. Mike Keown's goal was to avoid a runoff.
With 72 percent of precincts reporting, Keown was holding an insurmountable lead with 19,874 votes, or 80.9 percent of those tallied.
Rick Allen of Columbus was polling second with 2,684 votes, or 11 percent, and Lee Ferrell of Leesburg brought up the rear with 2,000 votes, or 8.1 percent.
With the big win, Keown avoids a runoff and will face U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, in the November general election.
"I want to thank the people of Southwest Georgia for their prayers and their support," a jubilant Keown said late Tuesday before a large crowd at his raucous campaign headquarters. "You have honored me with your vote, and with your continued support I am ready to take on Sanford Bishop this fall.
"I am really surprised and humbled to win by this wide of a margin. We expected to win, and our goal was to win by 70 percent and avoid a runoff. Our target all along has been Sanford Bishop, and he still is."
Keown carried 29 of 32 counties comprising the 2nd District.
"We did the best we could and I delivered the message the people wanted me to, and I hope I made them proud," Ferrell, a Lee County resident, said. "I will support Mike, and I will knock on doors, make phone calls or lick envelopes. I'll do whatever it takes to beat Sanford Bishop.
Allen, a Columbus native, congratulated Keown on his win, then added he thought his campaign was hurt by his getting into the race late.
"We gave it our best effort, but Mike had a lot of support early," Allen said. "We got off to a late start and just could never catch up.
"I'll support him against Sanford Bishop."
Keown said the large margin of victory will energize his campaign as he takes aim at Washington.
"The Barack Obama/Nancy Pelosi/Sanford Bishop machine has to be stopped. They have mortgaged the lives of our children and grandchildren, forced a government takeover of health care and taxed us into oblivion; all in just two years," said Keown. "But come January, that will come to a halt, when the new Republican Congress and I are sworn in."
Keown closed by saying, "This fight will be tough, but the future of our children and grandchildren is well worth it. I hope you will join our campaign to take this country back."