ATHENS - Upstart Democratic challenger Doug Haines pulled off a stunning upset in Tuesday's Democratic primary election, getting nearly 56 percent of the vote to unseat longtime 46th District Sen. Paul Broun and end an era in Georgia politics.
Mr. Broun, 84, had served 38 years in the Senate and was the state's oldest senator.
Mr. Haines lost to Mr. Broun in Oconee County, 521-458, and in Barrow County, 239-85. But in Clarke County, Mr. Haines' margin was nearly 1,400 votes - 5,254 to Mr. Broun's 3,861.
Overall, the count stood at 5,797 for Mr. Haines, 4,621 for Mr. Broun.
The 46th District comprises Clarke and Oconee counties and part of Barrow County.
Mr. Haines, 39, will face Oconee County Republican Jim Ivey in the general election Nov. 7. Mr. Ivey, a businessman who owns Computerland franchises in Athens, Atlanta and Conyers, ran without opposition for the Republican nomination for the seat.
"It's been a good 38 years, and I've enjoyed serving the people," Mr. Broun said. "I must say that Haines and I both ran about as clean a race as you could possibly run, and in politics, that's an unusual situation."
But Mr. Broun stopped short of saying he would support Mr. Haines in the general election.
When Mr. Haines spoke to campaign volunteers at a victory party at Trumps in downtown Athens, he spoke almost as much about Mr. Broun as his winning campaign, and the Haines workers gave Mr. Broun - who was not there - a long round of applause.
"I want to state at the outset the appreciation I think everyone in this community feels toward a great senator, Paul Broun, and the 38 years of dedicated service he's given this community," Mr. Haines said.
Mr. Broun theorized that his campaign might have been hurt by his support of Gov. Roy Barnes' education-reform act, and the subsequent endorsement of Mr. Haines by the Georgia Association of Educators. Mr. Broun also thought University of Georgia workers might have blamed him for their small pay raises, and noted the general anti-incumbent trend.
"I'm still amazed at all the incumbents getting beaten," he said.
Mr. Haines ran a campaign that focused on pocketbook issues such as affordable health care, workers' rights and the environment, but his energetic campaign style might have made the biggest difference, said longtime political watcher Heidi Davison, a Haines supporter.
"I really think there's something to be said for hard work, grass roots, getting in the trenches one on one with voters, and that's the kind of campaign Doug wanted to run from the beginning," she said.
Mr. Haines, a public-interest lawyer, is executive director of the Athens-based Georgia Legal Watch, specializing in environmental and government accountability issues.