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District's demographics will play key role

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If Matt Aitken is to pull off what would be a monumental upset on Dec. 1 -- tipping the racial balance on the Augusta Commission for the first time since city-county consolidation -- it will come down to one thing: turnout.

Can he get his supporters back to the polls, and will blacks in the heavily minority district again fail to turn out?

The voter demographics should favor Mr. Aitken's opponent, William Fennoy, because the district is 65 percent black. But on Tuesday, Mr. Aitken made inroads into the black precincts while winning big in the predominantly white precincts.

Barbara Gordon, the publisher and owner of the Metro Courier , a black weekly, said Tuesday's turnout in the black precincts was disappointing and community leaders must make sure there isn't a repeat performance next month.

"We have a second chance to pull it off, and black folks got to realize how important this seat is," she said. "I don't think black folks fully understand what we stand to lose if we lose this seat.

"The black leadership will make sure they understand," she said. "Folk want to say race is not an issue anymore but it is, and it is what it is. The black community needs someone who understands the dynamics of the black community."

District 1 has 13 precincts, 10 of which are majority black. Mr. Aitken won seven of the precincts, compared to six for Mr. Fennoy.

A peek at turnout in the district's four largest precincts -- two majority black and two majority white -- helps explain Mr. Aitken's surprising showing.

In the overwhelmingly black precincts of 103 (96 percent black) and 104 (93 percent black), turnout was 16 percent and 15 percent respectively. In the two majority white precincts -- 101 (81 percent white) and 107 (59 percent white), the percentage turnout was much higher at 26 and 32, respectively.

Overall turnout in Tuesday's election was 16.94 percent, slightly exceeding Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Lynn Bailey's prediction of 10 percent to 15 percent. The turnout barely missed breaking the record low for a commission election.

Turnout in District 1 exceeded the overall percentage, reaching 19 percent.

Ralph Walker, a longtime Augusta political observer and political science professor at Augusta State University, said he expects dismal turnout to again work in Mr. Aitken's favor next time around.

Normally, he said, when an election goes to a runoff, the first-place finisher goes on to lose. Such was the case in 2005, when then-interim Mayor Willie Mays came in first in a special election to replace former Mayor Bob Young, then went on to lose to Deke Copenhaver in a runoff. Voters who backed the other candidates typically rally behind the second-place finisher, Dr. Walker said.

But he doesn't think that will happen this time. Turnout Dec. 1 will be even worse, he said, with Mr. Palmer's and Ms. Jenkins' supporters probably staying home, and Mr. Fennoy facing the same challenge as always of getting black voters to the polls.

"There just doesn't seem to be momentum behind the other three, that I can see," Dr. Walker said.

Mr. Fennoy said when he hits the pavement during the next month, he'll stress to voters what's at stake if Mr. Aitken wins.

They disagree on the proposed trade, exhibit and event center, with Mr. Aitken saying he'll vote to build it on the site adjacent to the existing convention center inside Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites, and Mr. Fennoy leaning toward moving it to James Brown Arena.

He said he'll also be telling people that if Mr. Aitken wins, the political influence of black Commissioners J.R. Hatney, Alvin Mason and Corey Johnson, and District 5 Commissioner-elect Bill Lockett, will be diminished.

"We cannot afford to allow them to be voiceless," Mr. Fennoy said.

Asked about his strategy for winning the runoff, Mr. Aitken said it was too early to say.

"Tomorrow, we'll have a new game plan," he said, "but right now, we're still in celebration mode."

Reach Mike Wynn and Johnny Edwards at (706) 724-0851.

Comments (17) Add comment
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dyomite
16
Points
dyomite 11/04/09 - 05:59 am
0
0
The way THE METRO COURIER

The way THE METRO COURIER talks this is a racial thing. I remember Fennoy saying that this is not a racial city and it is not about race. Well now it seems that MS. GORDON is making a racial thing. What difference does it make if it is 4 black Americans and 6 white Americans if they are for the better good of Augusta in all. Right now everything is going to the Blacks because they stand together and hollow it is racist. Why can't we be AMERICANS AND FIGHT FOR THE SAME THING A BETTER AUGUSTA.
I don't like Aitkens but it is time to make a change. Maybe it will be different with 4 and 6 instead of 5 and 5. Maybe all Augusta will get fixed and not just a few spots.
May the best man win. If their is one.

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 11/04/09 - 06:30 am
0
0
"He said he'll also be

"He said he'll also be telling people that if Mr. Aitken wins, the political influence of black Commissioners J.R. Hatney, Alvin Mason and Corey Johnson, and District 5 Commissioner-elect Bill Lockett, will be diminished."....LOL and we certainly wouldn't want to stop all the wonderful progress their "voices" have made now would we?

humbleopinion
1
Points
humbleopinion 11/04/09 - 06:57 am
0
0
Barbara, WHAT are you going

Barbara, WHAT are you going to lose if a black guy loses the seat? Who are the REAL racists in America? It's the blacks. Look, you've got a black President. The top golfer is black. The highest paid TV personality is black. The top tennis player is black. There are blacks in EVERY aspect of America, from politicians to doctors to actors to business owners. The ONLY people keeping blacks down are other blacks.....ie Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright and the other race baiters. The "race card" has been overplayed and isn't working any longer.

RichmondCountyResident1
29
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RichmondCountyResident1 11/04/09 - 07:11 am
0
0
And humbleopinion reading

And humbleopinion reading your post, you are fine one to talk.Its funny how blacks voted for Mr. Aitken, but he won big in majority white districts.If you want to see who's racist, just look in the mirror.

justus4
113
Points
justus4 11/04/09 - 08:05 am
0
0
Something fishy about all
Unpublished

Something fishy about all this voting stuff...who is counting these ballots and what oversight is available to verify the results? Betcha this operation couldn't stand an inspection...

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 11/04/09 - 08:48 am
0
0
Bettyboop, why don't you run

Bettyboop, why don't you run for something instead of running your stupid mouth. You have not posted anything positive about a Black person, so we already know where you stand.

ispy4u
0
Points
ispy4u 11/04/09 - 08:50 am
0
0
Thank you RCR. We already

Thank you RCR. We already knew that HUMBLEIDIOT is a racist and Bettyboop is his female counterpart. At least I think it is a female. Probably APEX using a different name.

thewiz0oz
9
Points
thewiz0oz 11/04/09 - 09:06 am
0
0
MEMO TO ALL AUGUSTANS --

MEMO TO ALL AUGUSTANS -- VOTE GREEN -- You can't spend black or white at the super market or the pharmacy -- you can only spend green -- those (racist) who live by the sword -- Die by the sword.

justthefacts
24955
Points
justthefacts 11/04/09 - 09:30 am
0
0
What is the standard of

What is the standard of living in precincts 102 and 104? Everybody have jobs, nice houses, good roads, nice restaurants, low crime? If so, why change? Black leadership there must be doing a great job. For God's sake don't try anything different!

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 11/04/09 - 10:24 am
0
0
Apparently Barbara Gordon is
Unpublished

Apparently Barbara Gordon is one of the problems with Augusta! She's more worried about giving up a seat for a black person - no matter who would be better for the job.

toldyaso
595
Points
toldyaso 11/04/09 - 10:58 am
0
0
I look forward to the day

I look forward to the day that race is no longer an issue, but people are elected on their ability to represent the PEOPLE, not their own agenda's

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 11/04/09 - 12:03 pm
0
0
Jo Rae Jenkins would have

Jo Rae Jenkins would have been my second choice after Palmer.

bettyboop
7
Points
bettyboop 11/04/09 - 01:06 pm
0
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LOL...doncha just love this

LOL...doncha just love this City??!! You just can't make up these responses...you guys are a hoot !!psssssst ispy my point was that NONE of these commissioners are worth a poot...black ones included (thats why I quoted one of them....duhhhhh)...that make me a racist??...AMEN !!!.."He said he'll also be telling people that if Mr. Aitken wins, the political influence of black Commissioners J.R. Hatney, Alvin Mason and Corey Johnson, and District 5 Commissioner-elect Bill Lockett, will be diminished."....... hello.??... (sigh) it's really sad when you have to explain things in detail...)LOL......only only in Augusta.

RichmondCountyResident1
29
Points
RichmondCountyResident1 11/04/09 - 01:41 pm
0
0
Justthefacts,so are you

Justthefacts,so are you saying electing Mr. Aitken will make a real difference?All districts have problems of some sort. I live in district 3 and we have traffic nightmare daily on Wrightsboro road.For folks who have only voted for their own, you have no room to complain. Mrs. Gordon is only saying aloud what you have practiced at the polls.

Aliyah
1
Points
Aliyah 11/04/09 - 03:24 pm
0
0
If Mr.Fennoys wins it will be

If Mr.Fennoys wins it will be the same old thing.That is why Mr.Plamer backs him.But if Mr.Aitkens wins it will bring a positive change.I am not in that district but I do keep an eye on what is going on.Lets move Augusta forward vote Aitken for a change.It is time to let go and move on.Vote for the one with a vision.A possitive not a negitive

justthefacts
24955
Points
justthefacts 11/04/09 - 03:45 pm
0
0
RCR, what I said is if you

RCR, what I said is if you like the way things are keep voting the same way. I do.

RichmondCountyResident1
29
Points
RichmondCountyResident1 11/04/09 - 03:52 pm
0
0
Justthefacts, I don't live in

Justthefacts, I don't live in this district,but I would vote Fennoy hands down to an ole boys puppet. If anyone have any doubts about the vote, just look to the Ruffin vote. Four commissioners couldn't vote for him solely based on his race.But, most of them and their supporters will quickly say race is not a factor.

justthefacts
24955
Points
justthefacts 11/04/09 - 04:51 pm
0
0
RCR again. Fine. I don't live

RCR again. Fine. I don't live there either. None of my business. All I said was if things are going good, keep doing it the same way, if not, do something different. I will say this though, if the name on a courthouse is more important than lower crime, better infrastructure and such, well then, things will probably never change. The next generation will be just as poor as the last one. And on it goes. Meanwhile those in the other areas will continue to prosper. But, hey, we got our building named..yeah!

abeecee2
0
Points
abeecee2 11/04/09 - 08:43 pm
0
0
Substitute white for black in

Substitute white for black in Barbara Gordon's ("Jennifer Whithead") comments and you have a statement worthy of the KKK. Sad. Here goes...

"Jennifer Whitehead", the publisher and owner of the "Suburban Sentinel" , a white weekly, said Tuesday's turnout in the white precincts was disappointing and community leaders must make sure there isn't a repeat performance next month.

"We have a second chance to pull it off, and white folks got to realize how important this seat is," she said. "I don't think white folks fully understand what we stand to lose if we lose this seat.

"The white leadership will make sure they understand," she said. "Folk want to say race is not an issue anymore but it is, and it is what it is. The white community needs someone who understands the dynamics of the white community."

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 11/04/09 - 09:51 pm
0
0
Vote Aitken and break the

Vote Aitken and break the deadlock so Augusta can move forward.

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