Hasan tops Finnegan in District 6 commission race

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 11:53 PM
Last updated Wednesday, July 23, 2014 2:07 AM
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In a heated runoff to represent District 6 on the Augusta Commission, newspaper publisher Ben Hasan was victorious Tuesday, pulling in 1,243 votes, or 52.43 percent, to Fort Gordon retiree Bob Finnegan’s 1,128 votes, or 47.57 percent.

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Mickey Taylor and Darryl Willis campaign for Ben Hasan along Peach Orchard Road.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Mickey Taylor and Darryl Willis campaign for Ben Hasan along Peach Orchard Road.
Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

Supporters chanted “607” at Hasan’s victory party, the precinct number covering his Pepperidge subdivision which carried him to victory with 383 votes to Finnegan’s 20.

The win creates a six-member black majority on the commission for the first time since consolidation.

“We kept it clean, a very dignified race at the end of the day and we both were satisfied with that,” Hasan said after returning a concession phone call from Finnegan. “I look forward to working with him any way I can.”

Hasan said he is a “consensus builder” who plans to “build relationships” on the sometimes-frac­tured 10-member Augusta Com­mission.

“I look forward to working with all the commissioners,” he said.

Willie Greene, the pres­i­dent of Pepperidge Neigh­borhood Association, said the community of 1,100 homes came out in force for Hasan, with a reminder of Tuesday’s runoff elections posted on the neighborhood’s scrolling marquis.

“Ben is going to be very fair,” Greene said. “He’s going to do his own thinking. He’s in office for the people and will make the commission better.”

Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree, who appeared at the party, said Hasan “has always been a supporter” of law enforcement. Hasan had the endorsement of the CSRA Police Benevo­lent Association, but Round­tree said the group, which boasts 625 mostly Rich­mond County law enforcement members, was separate from the sheriff’s office.

Finnegan conceded the race at a neighbor’s home in the Alleluia Community’s Faith Village, where he and dozens of other mostly evangelical Catholic families reside.

“I think it was a great race, I really enjoyed myself doing it. I got to meet a lot of new people, make a lot of new friends,” Finnegan said. “(Hasan) said he wanted to get together and talk in a week or so and I’d love to do that.”

Finnegan won big at the district’s Burns United Methodist Church precinct, where much of the Alleluia Community votes, with 563 votes to Hasan’s 166. Finne­gan was leading until the final precinct results came in from 607.

“I’m trying to figure out what we could have done different and I really can’t think of anything. I think we put it out there and we came a little short,” said Finne­gan, the former chairman of the Richmond County Republican Party.

While both Hasan and Finnegan downplayed the racial component of Hasan’s win, it gives black members a six-vote majority on the commission for the first time in 55.84-percent black Augusta.

The point wasn’t lost on former Mayor Larry Scon­yers, who commented before voting Tuesday at Burns that the consolidated government’s governing body was designed to share power equally between five white and five black members.

“It will change the balance of power” if Hasan wins, Sconyers said.

Sconyers said his experience as mayor taught him that despite extensive negotiations and compromising before a commission vote, decisions at the dais tended to fall along color lines.

“They’d make a blood oath, then walk into the chamber and everyone would get amnesia,” he said.

District 6 resident Michael Newman, who voted for Finnegan, said despite being “not concerned” about the racial mix on the commission, he believed based on observations of commission behavior in the past that racial groups do tend to vote as a bloc.

“They have in the past,” Newman said.

The last time a racial group had the majority was in 2012, when Matt Aitken, who is white, lost a bid for a second term representing majority black District 1 to Bill Fennoy. During Aitken’s term, the commission’s four black members occasionally referred to the majority white “Gang of Six” when the group passed measures such as a restructuring of city government and a new personnel policy and procedures manual.

Originally a predominantly white south Augusta district, the “swing” district now has the city’s smallest margin of black to white voters, with 52.43 percent black voters and a voting-age population that is 49.35 percent black.

Including residents who are of mixed race including black, according to U.S. District Judge J. Randal Hall’s 2012 redistricting order, the percentage minority population is larger in District 6. The total mixed-race population including black is 54.26 percent, with 50.22 percent of the voting-age population. The district also enjoys a population that is 3.47 percent Latino or Hispanic.

Comments (7) Add comment
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Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 07/23/14 - 12:02 am
0
0
Good news
Unpublished

This was the most important local race yesterday and the voters made the right choice. Notice how Billy's paper is downplaying this huge shift on the commission. It was a different story when Matt Aitken won in 2009 and shifted the commission majority white.. the paper wasted no time trumpeting that. I guess it's going to be a lot harder for Billy and Paul to get free parking decks and hotel expansions now on the taxpayer dime. And on another note.. this is a rather awkwardly worded headline. Saying one man "tops" another has a completely different meaning in certain circles.

geecheeriverman
6549
Points
geecheeriverman 07/23/14 - 03:45 am
1
2
get ready

Get ready A/RC. You are in for a ride. Detroit, Birmingham, Chicago. you ain't got nothing on us.

jwilliams
1194
Points
jwilliams 07/23/14 - 06:25 am
1
1
607,607,607,607,607,607,607!

607,607,607,607,607,607,607!

Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 07/23/14 - 10:27 am
1
1
Press
Unpublished

Seems like Matt Aitken got a front page headline and big photo when he won in 2009 tipping the commission racial balance to 6 white votes. Hasan's win gets buried way down in the Metro section.

Sean Moores
305
Points
Sean Moores 07/23/14 - 10:34 am
1
1
@ Butterman

Our headline today is "Commission balance shifts." This story is on the centerpiece position on the front page.

Sean Moores
305
Points
Sean Moores 07/23/14 - 10:36 am
1
1
And a big photo too

Yep, front page photo as well.

PrayN4U
415
Points
PrayN4U 07/23/14 - 11:34 am
1
1
Happy

I am so happy with the district 6 and 22 results. Good job 607. Now, for a serious talk, when the commission was majority white everyone denied a race issue but now all of a sudden the race card is being played. I say, "what's good for the goose is good for the gander as the old saying goes".

Fiat_Lux
16995
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/23/14 - 09:21 pm
0
0
This will change things alright, but the better man did not win.

I can pretty well guarantee that the people who pay for everything aren't going to be very happy with what happens to their tax money over the next few years. Gird your loins, compadres, because the tax and spend crowd have taken over the majority, and they will vote together just as they always have done.

Fiat_Lux
16995
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/24/14 - 04:22 pm
0
0
If Susan McCord

is going to write about people in Alleluia Community, I just wish she would bother to find out accurate information before simply writing whatever she thinks she knows.

Also, Susan, I don't know if it played into the outcome of this election or not, but I'm not sure it's really kosher to label a candidate so specifically on his religious affiliations unless you are doing the same thing across the board. There still is a fair amount of religious bigotry out there as well as the racial variety. Religious animus is a powerful force in politics, especially in the South. Or did you know that already?

Bob Finnegan is far to gallant a gentleman ever to entertain such an idea, but it's worth considering for the future.

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