Trump-backed Jack, Dugan land in runoff in west Georgia US House race

Brian Jack, middle, is a former aide to Donald Trump who is running for the U.S. House in west Georgia's 3rd Congressional District. He won a spot in a June 18 runoff against former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Brian Jack, middle, is a former aide to Donald Trump who is running for the U.S. House in west Georgia's 3rd Congressional District. He won a spot in a June 18 runoff against former state Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

The race for a solidly conservative U.S. House seat in west Georgia is headed for a June runoff between former Donald Trump aide Brian Jack and former state Senate GOP leader Mike Dugan.

Jack leveraged Trump’s endorsement and a sprawling Washington network to emerge as the leading vote-getter in the five-candidate field, but he fell shy of an outright victory.

He will face Dugan, who has highlighted his military experience and long record in the Legislature, in a June 18 runoff that could attract a visit from Trump and other high-profile MAGA figures.

Although the race to fill the seat of retiring U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson is Georgia’s most competitive congressional contest this election cycle, it still slipped below the radar for many voters. Turnout was low and the candidates largely avoided slugging each other.

Still, it quickly became a test of Trump’s brand in a district stretching from Atlanta’s western suburbs to the Alabama state line that was drawn by Republican legislators for a GOP victory.

Jack and his allies used their formidable fundraising advantage to blitz the airwaves with TV ads touting the former president’s support. His rivals, all Trump loyalists themselves, tiptoed around the endorsement by stressing their own conservative credentials.

The five all largely agreed on key issues. Each backed establishing tougher immigration controls, creating stricter abortion limits and increasing financial support for Israel in its war against Hamas. Each opposed sending increased military aid to Ukraine.

And each raised his hand at an Atlanta Press Club debate when asked whether he thought Trump was the “rightful” winner of the 2020 election in Georgia, echoing disproven conspiracy theories fueled by the former president’s election fraud lies.

Instead of picking fights with each other, the contenders focused much of their campaign energy trying to mobilize their supporters without tearing down their rivals.

Jack, at 36 the youngest in the field, relentlessly linked himself to Trump’s agenda, telling voters to recall “how successful they were” when Trump was in the White House as they sought a House member who could carry out his agenda.

Dugan, 60, leaned into his record as one of the state Senate’s top Republicans, taking credit for GOP-backed measures that included rewriting voting rules, setting new abortion limits and expanding gun rights backed by Gov. Brian Kemp and other party leaders.

The two separated themselves from the three other contenders.

Ex-state Rep. Philip Singleton, a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot who often picked fights with Republican leaders when he was in the state House, promised a pugilistic approach to the “battlefield” of Washington.

But neither he nor ex-state Sen. Mike Crane, who also frequently tussled with the party establishment, tried to mimic the fire-breathing approach of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene or other far-right figures.

Rounding out the field was Jim Bennett, a conservative activist who entered the race because he said he was upset by Ferguson’s votes to raise the debt ceiling.