Originally created 05/12/02

Regional races could be humdingers



The race for the new District 12 congressional seat became more interesting last week with the sudden departure of Republican candidate Cleve Mobley of Waynesboro, who had raised a big enough war chest to mount a credible campaign but hadn't gained the toughness or savvy to be ready for political hardball.

A domestic violence arrest in 1991 and a couple of driving-while- intoxicated arrests were too much for Mobley to explain.

When Republicans caught wind that Democratic operatives were preparing an all-out offensive on blemishes in Mobley's personal life, his candidacy crumbled. This gives leading cash-contender, Democrat Charles Walker Jr., a decided advantage against all comers. It's hard to imagine Republicans wouldn't have done their homework on Mobley before all that heartbreak occurred, or that he hadn't disclosed his past stumbles.

It wasn't long thereafter that Barbara Dooley's name came into play. Dooley, the wife of the much admired former University of Georgia football coach, has a successful radio talk show in Athens and is well liked in all corners of the state.

Observers say this frank-talking grandmother could sweep up white rural Democrats, the entire University of Georgia alumnae and every breathing Republican in the new district, which has a 36 percent African-American voting population. Of that 36 percent, only 52 percent voted during the 2000 election, a record that leaves an opening for Republicans.

Last week also saw political upheaval in Rep. Jack Connell's district, when the Augusta Democrat announced that 34 years in office was enough. His heir apparent is Democratic Party loyalist David Bell, a local attorney who is a close ally of state Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta.

Bell has tried for office before, but his Citadel-bred steeliness hasn't given him the charisma to win voters. This time he'll have to fend off a feisty contender in Rep. Sue Burmeister, the Republican who has moved into the district after hers was destroyed during reapportionment.

Burmeister has two years under her belt and is a hard worker who has proven herself a capable representative. She still needs to learn that politics is the art of compromise, but Augustans can be sure she'd never compromise her core principles of being fiscally conservative.

On his side, Bell has a huge political machine and Connell's blessings. But his obsequious deference to Sen. Walker could hurt him with voters.

Bell will also have to defend his donations of thousands of dollars to disreputable U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., who gets most of her campaign money from Arab-Americans and lefties, such as Jane Fonda.

Concerning the state Senate race, local attorney and Augusta Planning Commission Chairman Randy Hall is seriously considering a challenge to Walker, the Senate majority leader. Hall, a Republican, has a squeaky clean record and his work on the planning commission is solid, although he'd be the first to admit that Augusta's flat economy has not given the commission many challenges lately.

Fair or not, candidates often have to defend their political records and personal histories. With the candidates mentioned above, there's a little something for everyone - plenty to make the campaign a lively one.