As Palin Picks Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Palin-Endorsed Karen Handel Surges in Georgia

Karen Handel

Karen Handel, Georgia's former secretary of state, has surged ahead in recent polls of Republican gubernatorial contenders, in the wake of an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The latest poll, from InsiderAdvantage/WSB-TV, shows Handel with 28 percent of the vote, while her closest GOP rival, former Rep. Nathan Deal, stands at 17 percent. State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, the front-runner as recently as eight days ago, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, garners 13 percent.

Palin last week endorsed Handel, the only woman seeking the governor's office in Georgia, calling her a "pro-life, pro-Constitutionalist with a can-do attitude and a record of fighting for ethics in government."

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who was jolted into the national spotlight after deciding to take on the Obama administration over the issue of illegal immigration, has also endorsed Handel.

"When Congress failed to act on illegal immigration, I took action to solve the problem," Brewer said in a statement. "Karen will fight to pass similar illegal immigration laws in Georgia. If President Obama tries to stop her, she will tell him to 'Bring it On.'"

As Handel has accumulated endorsements from prominent conservative women, she has accused Deal of targeting her because of her gender. Special Report: Campaign 2010
Photos: Campaign 2010

"Does Nathan have a problem with women in leadership? After all, women can do more than just fetch your coffee, Mr. Deal," Handel told the Paulding County Republican Examiner last week.

Handel also recently accused Deal of sexism for distributing a press release saying that "real women" support Deal's campaign. Deal called the charges of sexism "absurd." His campaign slogan is "Deal. Real."

While Handel is currently in the lead, Tuesday's primary will likely lead to a run-off, which is necessary if no candidate secures 50 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile Palin announced today her support for yet another "mama Grizzly" -- her term for conservative female candidates. She endorsed former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte for the Senate, calling Ayotte "tough on crime, supportive of law enforcement, and tireless in the defense of the rights of the people of New Hampshire."

Ayotte is one of several candidates competing for the GOP nomination to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Judd Gregg. Rep. Paul Hodes is unopposed in the Democratic primary.