Strong support in the rural counties for Republican candidate Max Burns help seal a win over Democrat rival, Charles "Champ" Walker Jr., in election returns for the 12th Congressional District late Tuesday.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Burns was leading Mr. Walker with 55.1 percent of the vote.
Mr. Burns said he targeted rural communities in this election, just as he did in the primary.
"We did extremely well in the heartland communities, and we needed to hold our own in the cities," he said. "And we did."
Mr. Walker had not conceded the race about midnight Tuesday and voiced bitterness toward Mr. Burns.
"If he wins, lies won the race for him," he said at his election party at B.L.'s Restaurant on Laney-Walker Boulevard. "He never campaigned about issues. It's a shame."
Asked whether he would call Mr. Burns to congratulate him, Mr. Walker said, "I can't respect him. I may call him. I simply can't respect him. He vicious. This man taught me a lesson, a serious lesson that voters are often fooled and can be fooled."
He said he planned to carry through on his lawsuit accusing Mr. Burns of libel and slander in his campaign ads.
Mr. Walker's father, state Sen. Charles Walker Sr., who had a hand in drawing the 12th District, said he thought his son ran a great race.
"He's a young man," he said. "He's got a bright future."
In Bulloch County, Mr. Burns received 8,794 votes to Mr. Walker's 3,019, and in Effingham County, he had 8,806 votes to Mr. Walker's 2,238.
With 72 of 72 precincts reporting in Richmond County, Mr. Burns had 17,101 votes to Mr. Walker's 18,703. In Chatham County, with 108 of 109 precincts reporting, Mr. Burns had 16,466 votes to his opponent's 19,202.
In Clarke County, the third major population center in the district, Mr. Burns held a slight edge over Mr. Walker. He had 9,631 votes to Mr. Walker's 9,375 with 22 of 23 precincts reporting.
The rivalry between the candidates has been bitter since Mr. Walker, 34, defeated Augusta lawyer Ben Allen in a Sept. 10 runoff to face Mr. Burns, who beat Barbara Dooley, the wife of University of Georgia Athletic Director Vince Dooley, in the August primary.
Political analysts predicted that Mr. Walker would win in the district, which some people say was drawn for him and which lists 60 percent of its voters as Democrats.
Mr. Walker's record of arrests, bad debts and business practices became issues that the Burns campaign exploited in radio and TV ads. One ad accused Mr. Walker's company, CresTech, of charging Georgia prison inmates' families $10 a minute for long-distance phone calls.
Mr. Walker responded last week by filing his lawsuit against Mr. Burns, 53. He had demanded that the Georgia Southern University professor publicly retract the allegations in the ads and apologize.
The Walker camp accused Mr. Burns of wanting to do away with Medicare because he signed a Republican Liberty Caucus pledge to shrink government, reduce taxes and abolish programs.
In the campaign's latter days, polls showed Mr. Burns leading Mr. Walker by 11.6 to 15 percentage points, and political analysts were questioning their earlier predictions.
As of Oct. 16, Mr. Walker had raised $882,433 to Mr. Burns' $491,066, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Staff Writers Mike Wynn and Heidi Coryell Williams contributed to this story.
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