David Bell knows best why he came out on the losing side to U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood in the 10th Congressional District race.
"I thought that the '94 vote was a high-water mark for Republicans and it was a pendulum that would swing back," Mr. Bell, the Democratic candidate, said Wednesday. "I was wrong about that. It was more of a trend than a one-shot deal."
Having made the election a test of whether people agreed with Dr. Norwood's votes on issues like education and Medicare, Tuesday's election should give Dr. Norwood proof that the people agreed with him, Mr. Bell said.
It was also another sign of the influence of Columbia County Republicans. Dr. Norwood came out of Columbia with a 11,400-vote lead and never looked back, though he ended up winning only 11 of the 24 counties in the district. Dr. Norwood ended up with 94,666 votes, 52 percent, to 88,063 and 48 percent for Mr. Bell. Mr. Bell took Richmond County by 5,000 votes but not nearly enough to overcome the advantage from Columbia County.
"Charlie certainly owes a lot to Columbia County," said Dr. Charles Walker, Augusta State University political science professor.
It was a rare win for a Republican in a district that is more than 30 percent black, said University of Georgia political science professor Dr. Charles Bullock. Republicans did not win any of those districts in their rush to power in 1994, and Dr. Bullock could think of only one other Mississippi congressman who had pulled off the feat before this year.
Mr. Bell said he counted on that working in his favor but it wasn't enough.
"I wasn't quite getting the percentage of white vote I needed," he said.
Dr. Norwood said he didn't write off the black vote and was pleased to find he had more black volunteers this year than in previous campaigns. He hopes to get the message out to the black community to work with him over the next two years.
"I've tried to reach out and make contact, and you're going to have to reach out and make contact with me if we're going to work well together," Dr. Norwood said.