Political newcomer Randy Hall was leading Democratic incumbent Sen. Charles Walker Sr. in early returns Tuesday in the District 22 Senate race.
With eight of 72 precincts in Richmond County reporting, the Republican held a slight edge, with 53.97 percent to Mr. Walker's 45.91 percent.
Write-in votes accounted for 0.12 percent. "I think I will win by three or four percentage points," Mr. Walker said from B.L.'s Restaurant on Laney-Walker Boulevard. "Anything above that will be a landslide."
The Walker party was watching election results on a 60-inch TV in the restaurant and enjoying a spread of Swedish meatballs, chicken wings, egg rolls and other delicacies.
At the Hall party at the Old Richmond Hotel Convention Center on Greene Street, Mr. Hall was buoyed by the early returns. His campaign manager, Richard Leonard, said Mr. Hall had won some precincts he didn't expect to win.
Some of the black Augusta ministers who supported Mr. Hall awaited the returns with him. Mr. Hall, 43, a lawyer, said he ran against Mr. Walker in an effort to restore ethics to state government.
Legislative redistricting earlier this year had put him in Mr. Walker's district. The redistricting reduced the district's black and historically Democratic population by nearly 12 percentage points, from 63.1 percent to 51.5 percent. The 55-year-old Mr. Walker is seeking his sixth term in the Senate since 1990.
Before that, he served four terms in the state House of Representatives, beginning in 1982. He is the Senate majority leader and one of the most powerful political figures in the state.
Mr. Hall said he wanted to send a message to Mr. Walker, whose business dealings have made him the target of several ethics complaints. In January, the State Ethics Commission fined him $8,500, the largest fine ever imposed on a sitting elected official.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.