Originally created 01/16/04

Keep moving forward



Our area's least-surprising political development of the year took place Thursday when former state Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta, announced he would run again for his old seat. In a stunning 2002 upset, the veteran lawmaker was taken down by Republican Randy Hall.

Walker says his candidacy is not about partisan revenge, ego or personal redemption; it is about how much he has learned from his defeat and a renewed "desire to serve, reviving hope and prosperity and giving back to a community that has given so much to me."

He can say that again. As one of the state's most powerful politicians, he used his clout to bring a lot to the community - and to take a lot out of it. He traveled a two way-street that got him in hot water with the state's Ethics Commission.

Even today his business activities while he was in government are still under investigation by federal authorities.

Walker talks glowingly about the vast experience he's had in the legislature - eight years in the House and 12 years in the Senate - and all the good he wants to do to save Fort Gordon, solve social problems and to serve "my people" who are "hurting."

What Augustans, and especially voters in state Senate District 22, must realize is that if Walker is somehow re-elected he will not return to Atlanta as the same powerful pol he was when he was defeated. He made far too many enemies in the capital for his party to ever make him its Senate leader again.

In fact, he would have no more clout than any other freshman senator - probably less. Given his checkered past, he'd have fewer friends than most freshmen, and with Republicans ascendant in Atlanta, most of the connections he had that benefited Augusta and himself are no more.

Many in our medical community felt they couldn't get to first base in Atlanta without Walker. Now they know better. Their strongest ally in the state capital right now is Gov. Sonny Perdue, who says his vision of developing a life-sciences industry has been greatly influenced by Medical College of Georgia President Dr. Daniel Rahn.

The governor has virtually guaranteed MCG a key role in bringing a National Cancer Institute "center of excellence" to the state. All these good things have happened with Randy Hall occupying Walker's old Senate seat. And whom do you think the GOP governor would prefer to continue working with - the Democrat Walker or Republican Hall?

This brings us to the final reason why Walker went down two years ago. He was turning into an embarrassing liability. Augustans were sick of his ethics lapses, chicanery, empire-building and playing the race card - even against liberals and fellow Democrats - when anyone disagreed with him or questioned his integrity.

They were also impressed by the integrity, compassion and diverse appeal, across racial lines, of political newcomer Hall.

Clearly, Augustans have moved on since the Walker years. If they remember where Walker was taking them, they'll continue to move on in November.