Originally created 07/20/00

A stunning upset

There was only one big surprise in Tuesday's primary, but it was a doozy. Sue Burmeister's stunning upset of veteran incumbent state Rep. Robin Williams, R-Augusta, in the House District 114 race.

It was not so much a surprise she won - it was clear she posed a serious challenge - it was the margin of victory that shocked.

Had this been a prizefight, Burmeister would have won on a TKO in the first round. It was a total mismatch. She swept every precinct.

Williams may have been hurt by west Augustans asking for a Democrat ballot to vote for Ronnie Strength for Richmond County sheriff. (In retrospect, it was unnecessary. The former chief deputy won his primary in a walk.)

Williams was hurt more by the endorsement of his opponent by very popular (with Republicans, anyhow) state school Superintendent Linda Schrenko. (Schrenko's opposition to Republicans who voted for Gov. Roy Barnes' education reforms contributed to the defeat of at least one other incumbent, state Rep. Tommy Davis, R-Columbus.)

But what hurt Williams the most was Burmeister's hard work and aggressive campaigning. She out-hustled him. In a low turnout, intensity is decisive. Burmeister motivated her supporters to vote; Williams didn't or couldn't.

She deserved to win and we congratulate her as we do the other GOP primary victors who'll have no opposition in November. State Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling, and state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Martinez, easily turned back their challengers, and rightly so.

The two incumbents drew fire for not being partisan enough. However, ideological purity is not the way to help one's community - bipartisan cooperation is, especially when you're in the minority.

We're sure Burmeister knows this, too. As a practical matter she'll be supporting Schrenko's education agenda over Barnes', but on other issues vital to the community we look for her to be bipartisan in her approach.

Finally, Williams' defeat opens up new leadership opportunities for Harbin, who is now senior GOP lawmaker from our area. Harbin is already widely respected on both sides of the aisle, so watch for him to become even more of a player in Atlanta.


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