ATLANTA -- Republican Max Burns upset congressional rival Charles "Champ" Walker Jr. in a new district drawn as a Democratic stronghold Tuesday, dashing Democrats' plans to win a majority of Georgia U.S. House seats.
Burns' victory in the 12th District, covering 200 miles from Athens to Augusta and Savannah, gave Republicans at least seven of Georgia's 13 districts. Burns not only won in a district packed with black voters, but he defeated the son of one of Georgia's most powerful black politicians.
"The bottom line is people looked at both candidates, our experience and service records, looked at the way we lived our lives," Burns said. "Mr. Walker was a solid, formidable candidate and we're fortunate to have won."
Two other contested open seats remained too close to call. Former Macon Mayor Jim Marshall, seeking a Democratic victory in the heart of rural Georgia, clung to a slim lead over Republican Calder Clay. And millionaire Democrat Roger Kahn trailed GOP state Sen. Phil Gingrey by a slim margin in west Georgia.
After Georgia gained two House seats in the 2000 Census, the Democrat-controlled Legislature drew new districts designed to shift the delegation's 8-3 Republican majority to 7-6 Democratic.
But that plan unraveled with Burns' victory in the 12th District. With 72 percent of precincts reporting, Burns had 51,574 votes or 58 percent, leaving Walker with 37,951 votes or 42 percent.
Walker, an Augusta businessman, became an underdog in a district he should have dominated considering his father, state Senate Democratic Leader Charles Walker, had a hand in drawing the Democrat-leaning open seat.
Burns, a Georgia Southern professor from Sylvania, attacked Walker for his past arrests and his role in a state contract that forced people to pay high phone rates when calling Georgia inmates. Walker sued Burns for slander.
Two years after he failed to unseat Rep. Bob Barr, Kahn struggled with Gingrey in the 11th District. With just over half of precincts in, Gingrey held a slim lead with 30,158 votes - barely more than 50 percent. Kahn trailed by 261 votes.
Gingrey attacked Kahn during their campaign as soft on drugs and criticized him for serving on the board of a nursing home where patients reported abuse. Kahn criticized Gingrey for trying to help inmates get transfers.
Marhsall held a narrow lead over Clay in the 3rd District with 82 percent of precincts reporting. Marshall had 60,367 votes, or 51 percent, to Clay's 58,728 votes.
During the campaign, Bibb County commissioner Clay attacked Marshall's tenure as mayor, dredging up Marshall's disastrous attempt to raise police pay without an equal raise for firefighters. Clay also called Marshall too liberal for the district's rural counties. Marshall countered with ads focused on his pro-gun stance and his service as an Airborne Ranger in Vietnam.
Two Democratic newcomers won contested races in metro Atlanta. Denise Majette, who upset Rep. Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary, defeated Republican Cynthia van Auken in the 4th District. Majette had 76 percent of the vote with 52 percent of precincts reporting.
In the new 13th District, Democratic state Sen. David Scott defeated Republican Clay Cox. Scott had 57 percent of the vote with two-thirds of precincts reporting.
Five Republican incumbents who drew light opposition all won re-election.
Rep. Jack Kingston defeated Democrat Don Smart in the 1st District. In the 6th District, Rep. Johnny Isakson beat Democrat Jeff Weisberger. Rep. John Linder defeated Democrat Michael Berlon in the 7th District. In the 8th District, Rep. Mac Collins beat Democrat Angelos Petrakopoulos in the 8th District. And Rep. Charlie Norwood defeated Democrat Barry Gordon Irwin in the 9th District.
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