By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Three Georgia Republicans were locked in a tight race on Tuesday for the chance to challenge U.S. Representative John Barrow, the last white Democrat in Congress from the Deep South, in the general election in November.
State Representative Lee Anderson, attorney Wright McLeod and businessman Rick Allen were running close together as the votes were tallied in Tuesday's primary election and it appeared the top two vote-getters would be forced into a run-off for the Republican nomination.
A fourth candidate for the state's 12th congressional district, attorney Maria Sheffield, trailed the trio.
Barrow, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2005, had no opposition in Tuesday's primary. But he will likely face a tough re-election battle in November after Georgia's Republican-led legislature increased the number of Republican voters in the eastern Georgia district.
White Southern Democrats have been increasingly scarce in Congress as conservatives switch their allegiance to the Republican Party, said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia.
Georgia's congressional districts were re-arranged when the state gained one House seat due to its rapid growth reflected in the 2010 Census.
In the Republican primary for the new House seat, radio talk show host Martha Zoller and Doug Collins, a state representative, were in a close race and appeared to be headed for a runoff.
The north Georgia district is heavily Republican, and the winner of the Republican primary is expected to become the state's newest member of Congress.
In Atlanta, a proposed new tax that would fund $7.2 billion in transportation improvements for the gridlocked region was losing badly in a voter referendum.
The proposed penny-on-the-dollar transportation sales tax in the 10-county metro Atlanta region would have paid for road and mass transit projects. The tax gained high-profile endorsements from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Governor Nathan Deal and CNN founder Ted Turner.
It drew opposition from some African American leaders, including John Evans, the NAACP president in DeKalb County, which is one of the most populous counties in the region.
(Editing by Jane Sutton and Mohammad Zargham)