Originally created 11/06/02

Absentees hurt Walker



Republican Randy Hall scored an upset victory over incumbent Democratic state Sen. Charles Walker Sr. to win the 22nd District Senate seat in Tuesday's election.

With all 72 precincts reporting, Mr. Hall won with 50.4 percent to Mr. Walker's 49.6 percent, a difference of 266 votes, which deprived Mr. Walker of a sixth term in the Senate.

Mr. Walker had a slim lead before the absentee ballots were counted about 1:15 this morning. But absentee ballots proved to be his undoing as Mr. Hall got 62 percent of the 3,284 absentee ballots cast in the race.

Mr. Walker got 1,239 absentee votes to Mr. Hall's 2,045.

"It was a hard-fought race, and obviously we voted along racial lines," Mr. Walker said before leaving election central with his son Charles "Champ" Walker Jr., who lost his bid for the 12th Congressional District seat to Republican Max Burns.

Mr. Walker was busy trying to get results all night at his election headquarters at B.L.'s Restaurant on Laney-Walker Boulevard. At one point he was getting updates on three cell phones.

After learning he had won, Mr. Hall stood on stage joined by his wife and two daughters and flanked by three of the black ministers who supported him, the Revs. K.B. Martin. pastor of Antioch Baptist Church; Clarence Moore, pastor of Good Shepard Baptist Church; and Tommy Burgess, pastor of Jerusalem Baptist Church.

Mr. Hall said that, when he decided to run, he told his wife that his dream was to free Augusta of Mr. Walker.

"David has slayed Goliath, and we have actually done it," Mr. Hall said. "We are going to start healing a racial divide that we've had for too many years in Augusta."

Mr. Hall, a lawyer, said he ran against Mr. Walker in an effort to restore ethics to state government.

Redistricting reduced the district's black and historically Democratic population by nearly 12 percentage points, from 63.1 percent to 51.5 percent.

Mr. Hall also 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.

Mr. Walker served five terms in the Senate, beginning in 1990. He also served four terms as a state representative, from 1982 to 1990. He is the Senate majority leader and one of the most powerful political figures in the state.

Staff Writers Johnny Edwards and Mike Wynn contributed to this report.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.