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Georgia Republicans Splitting Primary Vote

Updated at 8:30 a.m. ET

Georgia's bruising Republican primary runoff for governor had no winner Wednesday as some 2,500 votes separated the two candidates, leaving the race too close to call and a re-count likely.

In unofficial returns, Nathan Deal and Karen Handel each claimed 50 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Deal did hold a slim lead with an unknown number of provisional, overseas and military ballots yet to be counted. Under Georgia law, the runner-up can request a re-count if the margin is less than 1 percent.

If the more than a half-million ballots cast Tuesday are recounted, it could be at least next week before a GOP nominee is selected.

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The two Georgia Republicans vied for the right to take on former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes, who unleashed the first television ad of their fall campaign before knowing the name of his rival.

In Connecticut, Linda McMahon easily won the Republican Senate primary to join the slate of outsider-candidates who will carry the GOP banner this fall.

McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, will face Democratic attorney General Richard Blumenthal in the fall.

With Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell retiring, Connecticut voters also settled a pair of contested gubernatorial primaries.

Tom Foley, a businessman and former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, led a three-way race for the Republican nomination.

Among the Democrats, former Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy defeated businessman Ned Lamont, a businessman making his second try for statewide office. Lamont won a Senate primary four years ago, upsetting Sen. Joe Lieberman, who then won a new term in the fall as an independent.

In the marquee race of the night, appointed Sen. Michael Bennet won the Democratic nomination to a full term in Colorado, overcoming a fierce primary challenge at home and an outbreak of anti-establishment fever nationwide.

Bennet will face prosecutor Ken Buck, the winner of a tight GOP primary, in a race that Republicans need to win this fall if they are to challenge Democrats for control of the Senate.

And in Minnesota, conservative State Rep. Tom Emmer easily won the Republican nomination for governor. Four Democrats sought the opposing spot on the ballot.

Subplots included presidential hopefuls bestowing endorsements in hopes of helping themselves in the 2012 race for the White House.

Nowhere was that more evident than in Georgia, where former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Handel in her bid to become the state's first female governor.

Deal countered with support from Georgian Newt Gingrich, once the speaker of the House and now a possible presidential contender.

Deal is a former Democrat whose party switch 15 years ago reinforced the Gingrich-led GOP majority after the 1994 congressional elections. Deal also had the support of Mike Huckabee, who won the Georgia presidential primary in 2008.

Barnes won the Democratic nomination outright in a primary on July 20, while Handel led Deal in a Republican primary in which neither got 50 percent, necessitating the runoff.

In Minnesota, where Democrats have not elected a governor in nearly a quarter-century, former Sen. Mark Dayton, former state Rep. Matt Entenza and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher vied for the party's nomination. Emmer had only minor opposition, and recently announced a campaign shake-up to prepare for the fall.

Five rivals vied for the independent line on the fall ballot - in a state where Jesse Ventura was elected governor a dozen years ago as a third party contender.

Bennet was appointed to his seat nearly two years ago when Ken Salazar resigned to become Interior secretary in the Obama administration.

Romanoff, a former speaker of the state House, had hoped for the appointment, and he spurned entreaties from senior party officials to skip the race with Bennet.

In an intense campaign, both men sought the mantle of political outsider. Yet each relied on very well-known establishment politicians to help them - President Obama in Bennet's case and former President Clinton in Romanoff's.

The Republican primary was equally intense, pitting former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton against Ken Buck, a county district attorney and former federal prosecutor.

They, too, sparred over ownership of the outsider's credentials. Both also have ties to tea party activists, although Buck expressed frustration at one point, asking aloud for someone to tell those "dumba--s" to stop asking him about Mr. Obama's birth certificate while he was being recorded. He later expressed regret for the remarks.

In the state's gubernatorial campaign, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was unchallenged for the Democratic nomination.

The Republican rivals were former Rep. Scott McInnis and businessman Dan Maes, each marring their chances through self-inflicted wounds.

McInnis has acknowledged receiving $300,000 as part of a foundation fellowship for a water study report that was partly plagiarized. His chief rival, businessman Dan Maes, has paid $17,500 for violating campaign finance laws.

The spectacle prompted former Rep. Tom Tancredo to jump into the race as an independent, which in turn led state party chairman Dick Wadhams to say it would be difficult if not impossible to defeat the Democrat this fall.

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