Originally created 07/22/98

Williams returns to legislature



State Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, will return to his seat in Georgia's Legislature for a fifth term after decisively defeating GOP challengers Tracy Beckham Meehan and Cleonard "Sonny" Pittman Tuesday in a primary election that decided the race for the state House District 114 seat.

Also in the Republican primary, L.A. Williams edged controversial candidate Brad Owens to earn the nomination for state House District 115, and second-time candidate Paul Webster defeated Woodrow Lovett for another chance at state Senate District 23. Both winners now face strong opposition from longtime Democratic legislators: state Rep. Jack Connell and state Sen. Don Cheeks, both of Augusta.

There are no Democratic challengers for House District 114.

As usual, turnout for the primary was low. Countywide, only one-quarter of the registered voters cast a ballot.

Robin Williams garnered 68 percent of the vote in District 114, a victory decisive enough to preclude a runoff. Mrs. Beckham Meehan had 23 percent, and Mr. Pittman trailed with about 10 percent.

Tuesday's voting followed an acrimonious race where Mrs. Beckham Meehan threatened to file a complaint with the state Ethics Commission claiming Robin Williams misused campaign contributions. Mr. Pittman called the incumbent a "cracker Democrat" who lost touch with the people of Augusta.

Mrs. Beckham Meehan, saying

the voters have spoken, now says she'll stand behind Robin Williams to make sure he's named speaker of the House. She's still looking into allegations about the campaign money but is unsure whether she'll go through with the complaint, she said.

"There's no bad blood between me and Robin," she added. "I think the trend was already set and that the precincts that came through for him would have done so anyway, despite our campaign."

In the House District 115 race, L.A. Williams, who ran a relatively quiet race, gained 60 percent of the vote. Mr. Owens, who had 40 percent, ran a splashier campaign, offering services such as free lawn-watering using water pumped from the Savannah River during Augusta's outdoor watering ban, but he has been dogged by controversy over a 1992 photograph that showed him clasping white supremacist David Duke's hand at a political rally.

"We did pretty well, considering I was running against the entire Republican Party in the state of Georgia," Mr. Owens said. "... This is not the end. We will come back. We've got some problems with the Republican party, and we have to work those problems out."

Dr. Webster gained 65 percent of the votes in state Senate District 23, including 67 percent in Richmond County.

Mr. Lovett, who took 35 percent of the vote, had charged that Dr. Webster was too liberal for the district and would be easily defeated by a conservative Democrat such as Mr. Cheeks. Dr. Webster, who described himself as a moderate, said he wanted the Republican Party to be Inclusive.

Staff Writer Tracie Powell contributed to this article.