Tarver defeats Marion Williams in state Senate race

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 11:05 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010 11:08 PM
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Richmond County voters re-elected incumbent District 22 Democratic state Sen. Ed Tarver in a landslide today, dashing former Augusta Commissioner Marion Williams’ aspirations for higher office, at least for the next two years.

Mr. Tarver received 69.63 percent of the 13,231 votes cast in the district, apparently drawing a high volume of crossover votes from Republicans in the Hill section, who voted Democrat ballots.

Mr. Williams said the crossover vote, which he called a “switcheroo,” defeated him.

“The numbers just don’t come close to what happened last time,” he said. “But it’s legal, and the people spoke.”

In several precincts where the Republican vote usually run 65 percent or higher, a higher-than-usual number of Democrat ballots were cast.

For example, in the 2006 primary, Republican House District 119 candidate Barbara Sims received 150 votes at the Woodlawn United Methodist Church precinct, and Mr. Tarver received 90 Democratic votes there in his race for the state Senate. On Tuesday, Mrs. Sims received 129 votes at Woodlawn, and Mr. Tarver received 172 Democrat votes.

Celebrating Tuesday night with his family and steering committee, Mr. Tarver said he never altered his strategy to win.

“I set a game plan early on, and I’m glad we didn’t deviate even when my opponent made comments about how big he would win,” he said. “We didn’t participate with any boasting or bragging. We just put in hard work and went out to the people.”

Had Mr. Tarver lost the election to Mr. Williams, the political impact in Atlanta would have been negligible, political observers say.

“The big difference would be Ed’s three years’ experience,” said Dave Barbee, 10th Congressional District Republican chairman.

Former state Sen. Don Cheeks agreed that the only difference would be the loss of Mr. Tarver’s three years representing Augusta and his cooperation with the majority party.

“However, Ed is a Democrat with a Republican governor and Republican Senate, and he’s not going to move up,” Mr. Cheeks said. “Maybe (Lt. Gov.) Casey Cagle will give him one of the openings on the Appropriations Committee. The problem is they’re never going to give Democrats enough votes on any important committee to have an impact. The majority party will always control the committees. They will keep enough of their own party on any committee to control it.”

In the Legislature, a certain group – at this point, Republicans – runs the Senate and the House, Mr. Cheeks said.

“Everything else is just tidbits and tokens,” he said.

Ralph Walker, professor emeritus and director of the research center at Augusta State University said it takes a term or two for a lawmaker to learn his way around.

“And Ed is a little more laid back, more of a statesman,” he said. “If Marion got up there, he would speak his mind.”

In reality, it is better for voters to return incumbents to office unless they’re doing a lousy job, Dr. Walker said.

Mr. Tarver will face Republican challenger John Butler in the November general election, but Mr. Cheeks said Mr. Tarver’s win Tuesday means he’s won the seat because 59.2 percent the voters in the district are black.

“Butler has got about as much chance to go to Atlanta as my grandson, and he’s not old enough to vote,” he said.

Mr. Tarver is black. Mr. Butler is white.

Dr. Walker, likewise, said Mr. Butler has little chance of winning the seat.


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