Originally created 11/06/02

Republicans sweep senate and governor's races



ATLANTA -- Republicans stunned the top two Democrats on the ballot Tuesday in Georgia, a state dominated by that party since Reconstruction.

Rep. Saxby Chambliss, forced into the Senate race when Democrats redrew his congressional seat, unseated Sen. Max Cleland and Sonny Perdue, a party-switcher best known for leading Georgia's disastrous decision to deregulate the natural gas market, shocked Gov. Roy Barnes.

Perdue is the state's first Republican governor since 1872.

Even House Speaker Tom Murphy, the longest-serving legislative officer in the nation, trailed a GOP challenger.

Democrats also lost their bid to regain a majority of the seats in Congress on a day marred by rain and marked by the debut of a new electronic voting system.

In a Senate race that stood to help determine the balance of power in Washington, Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss ended Cleland's career after a single term. With 76 percent of precincts counted, the Republican had 52 percent to 47 percent for Cleland.

In the governor's race, Perdue led Barnes 51 percent to 47 percent.

The Senate race had been seen as close for weeks. The governor's race defied pre-election polls which showed Barnes with a comfortable lead.

"This suggests there was an awful lot more anger at Roy Barnes than anything was picking up," said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

In a west Georgia legislative district, Speaker Murphy, the nation's longest serving state legislative presiding officer, trailed Bill Heath, the Republican businessman who nearly upset him two years ago. Murphy, 78, was first elected to the Legislature in 1961 and has been speaker since 1974.

In congressional races, Democrats hoped to gain a 7-6 majority because of the new maps they drew in redistricting last year. But Republicans claimed seven seats Tuesday and Democrats had four, with two still unsettled.

The big congressional loss was in the new 12th District, drawn to favor a Democrat. There, Charles "Champ" Walker, son of a powerful lawmaker, lost to Republican Max Burns.

For Democrats, former state court judge Denise Majette, who upset controversial Rep. Cynthia McKinney in a primary last August, easily won election in a metro Atlanta district.

Democratic incumbents won races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, labor commissioner and agriculture commissioner. Republican Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine was re-elected, and Republican Kathy Cox won the state school superintendent's post.

The election was a crucial first test of the state's new $54 million electronic voting system. Most voters said the new machines worked well, although scattered glitches caused minor problems.