Chambliss wins runoff

ATLANTA --- Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss cruised to victory Tuesday in a hard-fought runoff with Jim Martin, keeping Democrats from gaining overwhelming control of the Senate.

With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Chambliss led 58 percent to Mr. Martin's 42 percent.

Mr. Chambliss credited his success to bipartisan support based on ideology, but the results show Georgia remains a solidly red state, despite the victory of President-elect Obama on Nov. 4.

"This has been an unbelievable four weeks," Mr. Chambliss said. "It has really been a coalescing of conservative Democrats and independents that have gotten behind our campaign for all the right reasons."

Mr. Chambliss' victory thwarted Democrats' hopes of winning a 60-seat, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

It came after a bitter month-long runoff against Mr. Martin that drew political luminaries from both parties to the state and flooded the airwaves with attack ads weeks after campaigns elsewhere had ended.

Minnesota -- where a recount is under way -- now has the only unresolved Senate contest in the country. But the stakes are significantly lower now that Georgia has put a 60-seat Democratic supermajority out of reach.

Mr. Martin's strength came from urban counties such as DeKalb, Dougherty, Chatham and Richmond, while Mr. Chambliss drew strong support from counties such as Columbia, Cherokee, Walker, Fayette, Gwinnett and Cobb.

Mr. Martin didn't concede until after 10 p.m., even when major news organizations had called the race for Mr. Chambliss by 9 p.m. The challenger held out hope that slow returns from Fulton and DeKalb counties would change the results.

In his concession speech, Mr. Martin said his campaign kept the focus on the lagging economy, the war in Iraq and health care.

"I know our campaign has been successful even though we did not win," a visibly emotional Mr. Martin said.

In another statewide runoff, Republican Lauren "Bubba" McDonald beat Democrat Jim Powell in the race for a seat on the Public Service Commission, which sets rates for Georgia Power, Atlanta Gas Light, movers and transportation companies, and smaller gas companies.

In the third runoff, Sara Doyle beat Mike Sheffield in the contest for the Court of Appeals. She will take the seat of Judge John Ruffin, of Augusta, who is retiring.

Only 9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in early and advanced voting.

OTHER RESULTS

In two other statewide runoffs, Republican Lauren "Bubba" McDonald won a seat on the Public Service Commission, and Sara Doyle was elected to the Court of Appeals bench.

U.S. SENATE

92 percent of precincts

Saxby Chambliss (R) 58%

Jim Martin (D) 42%

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION,

4TH DISTRICT

92 percent of precincts

Lauren McDonald (R) 57%

Jim Powell (D) 43%

COURT OF APPEALS

92 percent of precincts

Sara Doyle 52%

Mike Sheffield 48%

-- From wire reports

HIGH TURNOUT

Voter turnout was high in Richmond and Columbia counties.

In Columbia County, more than 41 percent of registered voters cast ballots. County Board of Elections Director Debbie Marshall said that before the election she had predicted a 21 percent turnout.

In Richmond County, turnout was above the 25 percent Board of Elections Director Lynn Bailey had predicted, at 37 percent.

With only provisional votes left to be counted, Columbia County chose Mr. Chambliss by a wide margin of 23,003 to 7,193. In Richmond County, Mr. Martin took more votes, with 23,493 to Mr. Chambliss' 16,082.

-- Preston Sparks, staff

ONE-VOTE MARGIN

Who says one vote doesn't make a difference?

Don't tell that to Barbara Hammett, the executive director of the Burke County Board of Elections. Democrat Jim Martin outpolled U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in her county by a vote of 2,533 to 2,532.

Percentage-wise, she noted, that's 50.001 percent to 49.999 percent.

What would she say to people who think their vote doesn't matter?

"I would say that happens lots of times, where a few votes -- or one vote -- make a difference," she said.

In the school board runoff between Lynn Crews and Barrett Wimberly, won by Ms. Crews, each candidate got 178 votes in one precinct.

-- From staff reports