Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) backed former state Rep. Tom Graves (R) to win the June runoff for former Rep. Nathan Deal's (R-Ga.) seat.

Graves took the lion's share of the vote in Tuesday's special election but didn't win a majority. He faces ex-state Sen. Lee Hawkins (R) in the runoff.

Westmoreland, in a statement, said: "Like me, Tom is passionate about job creation, cutting taxes and promoting free market and private enterprise. His unapologetic conservative philosophy will be a benefit to all Georgians in Washington and I look forward to serving with him once again."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jim Galloway notes it's an important endorsement, and offers this read of the race:

The 9th District congressional race can be characterized as a contest between a tea party candidate (Graves is tight with FreedomWorks, a major underwriter of the movement) and an establishment Republican (Hawkins has touted his business experience).

If one were a Republican and looking at a close contest for governor in November, one might not want to see a tea party champion defeated, and supporters demoralized, so early in the season.

Hawkins would no doubt disagree.