Originally created 10/20/06

New opponent, same obstacles for Johnson



After trying and failing four times to unseat the now-deceased state Rep. Henry L. Howard, Republican challenger Davida Johnson finally has someone new opposite her on the November ballot - kind of.

In what has become almost a biennial political tradition in Augusta, Ms. Johnson will still face a Mr. Howard, but instead of the 15-year-legislator, it will be his son, Henry Wayne Howard, in District 121.

Mr. Howard is taking the spot of his late father after handily defeating his stepmother, Earnestine, in the Democratic primary.

During the past decade, the Howard-Johnson contests were easily skimmed over as foregone conclusions, with Ms. Johnson always finishing far behind the entrenched Democratic legislator.

But no defeat has been so discouraging that Ms. Johnson didn't pick right back up where she left off.

The outcome in the latest rendition of the Howard-Johnson match-up isn't likely to change dramatically for her, a white Republican running in a staunchly Democratic and majority-black district.

But that doesn't sway her.

Nobody should run unopposed, she explains, lest they become complacent and stop representing their constituents. "You should have to work for it."

The two candidates are vying to represent a House district composed mostly of lower- to middle-income residents. A large part of the district is an impoverished area south of downtown known recently for its crime and blighted residential neighborhoods. But it is also home to a proud black history.

David Collins, who lives in that neighborhood and is black, admits there are problems with drugs and crime. But he said the area isn't all that bad and hopes it will be restored to what once made blacks proud to live there.

"Just because you see downtrodden homes doesn't mean the people here don't have potential," the 24-year-old Coca-Cola employee said. "Overall, you've got some good people around here. They just need some help.

"If you have a politician that can come and actually back up his words, you give people hope this neighborhood will be what it used to be."

With 62.4 percent of the district black and 76 percent of the primary vote Democratic, Mr. Howard appears to be in a strong position. But he said he isn't taking his opponent lightly, pointing to the 3,545 votes she received in 2004 against his father.

Ms. Johnson, who suggested that she might discontinue her campaigns against the Howards if she doesn't succeed this time, said a major reason she's running now is her opponent's residency.

She said she is skeptical of his claim to be living above his upholstery business in the 2000 block of Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Although all official paperwork indicates he lives at the business, Ms. Johnson claims Mr. Howard stays at a house in the 2000 block of Westfield Drive, which is in House District 120. Mr. Howard's neighbors also said he lives there.

According to the Richmond County Board of Elections, he changed his voter registration to the Martin Luther King Boulevard address in October of last year. He also didn't claim a homestead exemption on either property for this year, according to the tax commissioner's office.

Mr. Howard admits that he owns the Westfield property but said he lives at the address on his voter registration card.

He said his neighbors might be confused because his children live at the Westfield Drive house.

Reach Justin Boron at (706) 823-3215 or justin.boron@augustachronicle.com.

THE CANDIDATES


- Henry Wayne Howard (Democrat)


Age: 51


Profession: Owner/Operator of Howard's Upholstry & Uniformals Unlimited


Political experience: None


Family: Wife Cassandria, daughters Alva Lampkin and Thelma Nicole Howard, son LaRon Howard; one granddaughter




- D.L. Johnson (Republican)


Age: 52


Profession: Paralegal/businesswoman


Political experience: Animal Control Board


Family: Single, no children



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