[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/29/art.handel.palin.kh.com.jpg caption ="Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who is campaigning for the state's Republican gubernatorial nomination, has a new television ad touting her conservative credentials. "]
(CNN) - Less than two weeks before Georgia's Republican gubernatorial runoff, a rough campaign is getting tougher.
Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel's up with a new television commercial highlighting her gender and touting her conservative credentials while attacking her opponent, former Rep. Nathan Deal. And Deal's campaign is firing back.
"One carries a purse. The other carries baggage. One whom Sarah Palin says has cut government, and is the true conservative. Or the other, who added trillions to our national debt. One a conservative reformer. One a corrupt relic of Washington DC. Karen Handel is Georgia's strong conservative," says the narrator in the ad.
Handel was endorsed before the July 20 primary by Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee. Palin's backing appeared to quiet some on the right who criticized Handel as not being conservative enough and appeared to help Handel rise in the final polls conducted before the primary.
Handel came out on top in that contest, capturing 34 percent of the vote in an eight candidate field. Deal finished second with 23 percent of the vote. Since no candidate won 50 percent, Handel and Deal, the top two finishers, moved onto an August 10 runoff. Since the primary, former Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has also endorsed Handel. Deal has the backing of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"Karen Handel has never done a positive ad. She's just continuing her line of attack. She has no new ideas for Georgia," says Deal campaign spokesman Brian Robinson. "Nathan has one of the strongest records on fiscal conservatism that you will find."
Handel's ad, her first commercial of the runoff campaign, refers to accusations that Deal used his position in politics to make deals with the state of Georgia that earned him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Deal says he's not the target of a federal investigation currently looking into a meeting he had last year at the state capitol.
"I think it is somewhat ironic that this surfaces after the original primary and just a couple of weeks before the runoff. I think you recognize that it is being used as a political tool," Deal told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The winner of the Republican runoff will face off in November against former Gov. Roy Barnes, who easily captured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn