By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - A Georgia congressman who attacked the theory of evolution found himself with an unlikely opponent in Tuesday's U.S. election, when 4,000 voters in one county cast write-in ballots for the 19th century father of evolution, British naturalist Charles Darwin.
In a September 27 speech, Paul Broun, a physician and member of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee, called evolution and the Big Bang Theory, "lies straight from the pit of hell."
Since Broun, a Republican, had no opposition in the general election, a University of Georgia plant biology professor, Jim Leebens-Mack, and others started a write-in campaign for Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution.
"We don't feel our interests are being best served by an anti-science fundamentalist representing us on the Science, Space and Technology Committee," Leebens-Mack told Reuters on Friday.
The write-in votes in Athens-Clarke County will not count officially since Darwin was never certified as a write-in candidate, but Leebens-Mack hopes the campaign will encourage a strong candidate, Democrat or Republican, to challenge Broun in 2014.
"I think there could be Democratic opposition, but even more likely is having a rational Republican who understands issues like global warming, scientific reasoning more generally," said Leebens-Mack.
Broun received 16,980 votes in Athens-Clarke County, home of the University of Georgia, Broun's undergraduate alma mater.
Broun's office issued a statement on Friday that did not directly address Darwin, saying that the congressman "looks forward to representing the ... constitutional conservative principles" of his constituents.
The statement also noted that Broun "received a higher level of support from his constituents in Athens-Clarke County this election cycle than in any of his previous campaigns."
(Editing by David Adams, Bill Trott and David Brunnstrom)