Originally created 01/15/04

Walker will vie for lost seat

Former state Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker Sr. said Wednesday that he will run for the District 22 Senate seat he lost to Sen. Randy Hall, a Republican, in a 2002 upset, despite an ongoing federal grand jury investigation.

He is expected to make a formal announcement at a 5:30 p.m. news conference today.

Mr. Walker, 56, a Democrat who served eight years in the House before being elected to the Senate in 1990, said his candidacy is not about personal redemption or ego.

"Neither is it about partisan hardball politics," he said. "Rather, it is about lessons learned, a desire to serve, reviving hope and prosperity and giving back to a community that has given so much to me."

At the state Capitol on Wednesday night, Mr. Hall did not directly comment on Mr. Walker's announcement.

"When the campaign season arrives, I look forward to a discussion on the issues," Mr. Hall said. "Until then, I'm going to work on the business of the people of the 22nd District."

Mr. Walker said issues facing Augusta, such as the future of Fort Gordon, cutbacks at Gracewood State School and Hospital and problems at Richmond County Youth Development Campus require the sort of strong leadership he can provide.

"My people are hurting," he said. "And the people of Augusta are hurting. And I believe that we can't afford to have people trying to learn the system and learn the process while the people are suffering."

In a written statement on the ongoing federal grand jury investigation of him and his businesses, Mr. Walker said he would not let the inquiry "mute or in any way temper" his passion for public service.

"Sitting on the sidelines for the past 12 months has been painful and very humbling," he said.

He said he has cooperated with investigators in every way and will continue to do so but noted there have been many examples throughout the country of lengthy investigations that have not produced evidence.

Ed Reinhold, the special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Augusta office, said Mr. Walker is free to do as he wishes.

"And if he wants to run for office, the agency is certainly not going to stand in his way," Agent Reinhold said. "But we're not done."

Mr. Walker said he believes he can raise the $500,000 it will take to win the race between now and November. So far, though his latest campaign disclosure report shows $95,483 on hand, almost all of it is either from accrued interest, reimbursement of legal expenses or loans from himself.

Mr. Hall reported $92,435, most of it from individual contributions.

Mr. Walker attributed his loss, in part, to not working hard enough on his own race in 2002 and spending too much time on his son's campaign.

"I didn't work hard on the 22nd Senatorial District," he said. "I worked on the 12th Congressional District. I spent a lot of time doing that. I think that was a contributing factor."

His son Charles Walker Jr. was the Democratic candidate for the 12th District. He lost to Republican Max Burns, of Sylvania.

Mr. Walker said another factor in his loss was Mr. Hall's lack of a political record, he said.

"I had a record in the Georgia General Assembly, and Randy Hall did not have a record," he said. "But now all God's children got a record. I'm going to run on mine. He's going to run on his."

After his defeat, Mr. Walker said he planned to relax, play golf and write a book.

"I did that," he said.

In his written statement, Mr. Walker accuses Gov. Sonny Perdue's administration of betraying Georgia children and teachers by refusing to reduce class sizes.

"The state's betrayal doesn't stop there," he stated. "It continues with the people of Georgia electing a Democratic Senate only to learn that their votes were wasted when party switchers discounted the will of the people."

Mr. Walker's defeat, and that of Democratic Sen. Richard Marable, of Rome, helped lead to a Republican takeover of the state Senate. Weeks after the 2002 election, four incumbent Democrats switched parties, giving the GOP a 30-26 edge in the chamber.

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


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