ATLANTA --- When the TV ad appeared featuring a grief-stricken mother urging the public not to vote for a state attorney general candidate, the Georgia primary season took a sharp turn.
Even in a state known for tough political ads, the spot was eye-catching. And risky.
With less than a week before the state primary, the bare-knuckles race for attorney general has managed to make the battle for governor appear almost tame in comparison.
Kenneth Walker's mother, Emily, is featured in the 30-second spot for Democratic state Rep. Rob Teilhet, criticizing his opponent Ken Hodges for failing to secure a grand jury indictment against the deputy who shot and killed her unarmed son in a case that exposed racial tensions in west Georgia.
"He was lying on the ground unarmed when a police officer shot him twice in the head," Emily Walker says in the ad, which began airing last week. "But the officer got off because the prosecutor, Ken Hodges, forgot to swear him in, tried to hide the video and then refused to reopen the case. I could never get an answer why."
The advertisement has put Hodges on the defensive.
"The death of Kenneth Walker was a tragedy, and my heart continues to be with the family," he said during Sunday's candidate debate. "The fact that my opponent wants to exploit the family's grief and use it for political purposes is, quite frankly, disgusting."
Hodges and Teilhet have been fierce rivals. Even before the Walker ad, the two traded accusations over endorsements and experience. Teilhet has defended the ad, saying Hodges is running on his experience and that the Walker case is an important part of his record.
Walker was pulled over in December 2003 after officers said they watched him leave a home that was staked out during a drug investigation. Video shows Muscogee County sheriff's Deputy David Glisson shooting Walker in the head, killing him. No drugs or firearms were found in the vehicle or on any of its occupants.
Hodges, a former Dougherty County district attorney, was appointed the special prosecutor to present the case to the Muscogee County grand jury in November 2004. The panel decided not to indict Glisson, stirring racial tensions in Columbus because Walker was black and the deputy is white.