Originally created 11/18/02

Mayoral candidates say race split votes



Bob Young and Ed McIntyre differ on most issues but say the same thing about how voters cast ballots along racial lines Nov. 5.

"Yes, it does bother me," Mr. Young said. "It should bother anyone who is involved in public office."

And Mr. McIntyre said: "That's a very sad commentary that we here in 2002 are still voting race."

If it happens again in similar numbers Nov. 26, expect the outcome of Augusta's mayoral runoff to be - with acknowledgements to Yogi Berra - deja vu all over again. Mr. Young would duplicate his 1998 runoff win over the former mayor. Although Mr. McIntyre got more votes than Mr. Young in the general election.

That's because turnout in the 37 predominantly white precincts exceeded that in the 34 black precincts. Voters in the white precincts accounted for 56 percent of the ballots cast in the mayor's race, compared with 44 percent from the black precincts.

Mr. Young won all but four of the white precincts, despite losing votes that would likely have been his if there hadn't been three other white candidates. Of the other white candidates, Bonnie Ruben hurt Mr. Young the most, showing a lot of strength in west Augusta, a stronghold of the mayor.

Ms. Ruben won only 12 percent of the overall votes but averaged 15 percent of the votes cast in the white precincts.

Those votes now will likely go to Mr. Young, or at the very least, not to Mr. McIntyre, a local political analyst says.

"I think Bonnie Ruben hurt Bob in the original race, and one would think that her supporters would vote for Bob or stay home," said Ralph Walker, an Augusta State University political science professor. "Some of them were votes against Bob, but that vote may well stay home. If they were McIntyre supporters, they would have voted for him originally. Just because they are anti-Bob doesn't mean they are necessarily pro-Ed."

Ms. Ruben has not endorsed either candidate. Former candidates Robin Williams and Bobby Ross have lined up behind Mr. Young.

Mr. McIntyre downplayed the endorsements, saying he expects to win over some of nearly 11,000 voters who cast ballots for Ms. Ruben, Mr. Williams and Mr. Ross.

"We're hoping that some of them will come over," he said. "One of the things I do know is that one person can't transfer their votes to another. Endorsements don't mean that a person is going to receive the votes of the person that endorses."

In addition to needing some of the presumed white votes that went to the eliminated candidates, Mr. McIntyre must do better in some of the black precincts he won. For instance, in the largest black precinct - Jamestown Community Center (405) - which is nearly 85 percent black, Mr. McIntyre won only 68 percent of the votes.

He failed to win the Paine College precinct (111) - one of only two black precincts he lost - getting 37 percent of the votes, compared with 38 percent for Mr. Young. The precinct is 53 percent black.

If the numbers from the general election are any indication, Mr. McIntyre will need to reassert himself to get more voters from his likely support base. Only 53 percent of the registered voters in the black precincts showed up at the polls Nov. 5, compared with 59 percent in the white precincts.

Eligible voters who didn't vote during the general election can still cast ballots in the runoff.

Dr. Walker says the strong turnout by Republican voters Nov. 5 will carry over to the runoff, which he said bodes well for Mr. Young.

"The mayor's race is nonpartisan, but is it really?" he said. "We all know that Bob is a rip-roaring Republican, and, of course, Ed is a Democrat. The Republicans are on a roll, and they have the taste of blood. The Republican voters are really energized, and why wouldn't that carry over into the mayor's race?"

The candidates are getting their supporters back to the polls in different fashions.

Mr. Young's campaign has mailed out absentee ballot application forms, expecting some people to go out of town Thanksgiving week, and has done several recorded phone messages. Mr. McIntyre's campaign has been decidedly low cost, relying more on door-to-door canvassing by volunteers and personal phone calls.

Each candidate is trying to persuade voters that he should be mayor, sometimes taking none-too-subtle digs at his opponent.

"In me, you've got someone with four years of experience, someone who has built relationships particularly with the new state government that's coming in and relationships with the federal level," Mr. Young said. "You've got somebody who has an untarnished record ... someone who pays his taxes on time, who pays his bills on time, who takes care of his property and hasn't been arrested."

Mr. McIntyre, who was convicted of bribery and extortion during his tenure as mayor from 1982 to 1984, said his past no longer should be used against him.

"If I haven't been redeemed now, I never will be," he said. "There are still people who say they've never heard me say I'm sorry, that I made a mistake and deeply regret it. I've said it many times before. When you don't have many things to criticize people for, you've got to find something."

The something both candidates will need to find during the next eight days is voters. In a runoff, winning or losing usually comes down to turnout.

"Runoffs are totally a matter of turnout, who can get your voters back to the polls," Dr. Walker said. "Anybody who predicts a runoff is silly. You don't know who's coming back to the polls."

Reach Mike Wynn at (706) 823-3218 or mwynn@augustachronicle.com.