Originally created 11/04/04

A huge loss for Augusta



The Augusta area proved itself to be grossly out of step with the state and nation on Tuesday.

In fact, Augusta took two full steps backward.

While Georgia and the nation were going in one direction - returning George W. Bush to the White House, adding to Republican congressional majorities and handing both Georgia legislative chambers to the GOP - Augusta-area voters amazingly returned the obsolete Walker Democratic political machine to power.

In so doing, Augusta has cut itself off at the knees.

Voters here turned out of office respected state Sens. Don Cheeks and Randy Hall, while re-electing a federally indicted former state Sen. Charles Walker. Augusta also has elected a largely Democratic delegation at the same time the state has opted for a Republican General Assembly.

Why in the world?

Just two years ago, voters had rebuked the ethically challenged Walker, electing newcomer Hall over the one-time Senate majority leader. Exactly what has changed in that time - other than the fact that Walker has since been slapped with a 142-count federal indictment for various alleged misdeeds in his professional, political and civic lives?

The disgrace is no longer just Walker's. It's Augusta's.

Moreover, under state law and Senate rules, due to the federal indictment there's a good chance Walker will be shown the Senate door before he can warm the District 22 seat.

The district's voters may be pining for the "good" old days when Walker could promise the moon and nearly deliver it. We now know that those promises came at a heavy price: ethical lapses and ruined reputations for Augusta. We also know that the disgraced Walker will never again ply the sort of heavy-handed power he once did in Atlanta - certainly not with his baggage, and not with both houses in GOP hands.

And for this, we traded in Don Cheeks - an influential House-Senate conferee and whose star was continuing to rise.

The implications for Augusta are far-reaching in Atlanta, but more devastating at home: The Walker machine will now stand in the way of any meaningful reform of the moribund Augusta Commission. After the commission's incredibly inept ruination of the local sales tax issue - which went down in a spectacular fireball at the polls Tuesday - it became clear that Augusta will be mired in quick-dry cement until the form of government is changed.

The Walker win Tuesday not only will forestall that reform, but will further taint what government we have left here.