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Veteran lawmakers fall or face runoffs after Georgia primary

ATLANTA (AP) -- A handful of veteran lawmakers fell and others were forced into runoffs in Georgia's primary election. In one of the only statewide races, the governor's appointee to the Public Service Commission, the first black to serve on the panel, won nomination.

Among the legislative casualties Tuesday was 84-year-old Democrat Paul Broun of Athens, who was first elected to the Legislature in 1963.

Another victim was Republican Rep. Robin Williams of Augusta, targeted for defeat by state School Superintendent Linda Schrenko for his support of the governor's education reform bill this year. Williams lost to a challenger Schrenko backed.

Rep. Tommy Davis, R-Columbus, lost his seat to 22-year-old challenger Danae Roberts, who also campaigned on her opposition to Barnes' education overhaul. With no Democrat running for the seat, Roberts matches Richard B. Russell's record as the youngest legislator elected in Georgia.

Senate President Pro Tem Terrell Starr, D-Forest Park, survived a tight challenge but two other veteran Clayton County Democrats were defeated -- Rep. Jimmy Benefield, D-Jonesboro, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Rep. Frank Bailey, D-Riverdale.

Benefield lost to challenger Darryl Jordan. Bailey fell to challenger Valencia Seay.

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said the Clayton County results could mirror changing demographics in the county just south of Atlanta, but that other losses by veteran lawmakers could mark "a generational changing of the guard. It may be the new century is a time when some of the older members get retired."

Bullock added that Schrenko's successful campaign against fellow GOP members who voted for the Democratic governor's bill may "give encouragement to Republicans who want to make the education reform bill an issue (against Democrats) in November."

Broun, the second most senior member of the Senate, lost to Doug Haines, 39, executive director of a group specializing in environmental and government accountability issues.

The Georgia Association of Educators, which, like Schrenko, opposed portions of the education reform bill, backed Haines.

Broun conceded that may have been a factor in his loss.

Still, he said, "It's been a good 38 years and I've enjoyed serving the people."

Williams fell to Sue Burmeister in a race in which Schrenko -- also from the Augusta area -- personally campaigned for his opponent.

Rep. June Hegstrom, D-Scottdale, appears to have lost her seat to challenger Karla Drenner. Unofficial returns showed Hegstrom losing by 68 votes, with all precincts counted.

Sen. Faye Smith, D-Milledgeville, defeated a comeback attempt by former Sen. Floyd Griffin, who left the Senate to run for lieutenant governor in 1998.

Sen. Rick Price, R-Fayetteville, got 45 percent of the vote against three challengers but needed 50 percent to avoid a runoff. He faces Mitch Seabaugh, a challenger Schrenko endorsed.

Rep. Kem Shipp, R-Kennesaw, lost to challenger Roger Hines 47 percent to 53 percent.

Rep. Ben Whitaker, R-East Ellijay, was forced into a runoff with Hinton Amos Amerson.

Meanwhile, two former senators who left the Legislature as Democrats two years ago were making comeback bids as newly minted Republicans.

Guy Middleton of Dahlonega defeated conservative activist Nancy Schaefer, a GOP candidate for governor in 1998, to advance to the general election against the Democratic incumbent.

Steve Langford of LaGrange finished just 52 votes behind his only opponent in the primary, Tom Mills, in the unofficial tally.

In State House District 75, the qualifying period for Democratic candidates was reopened following the death of Democratic incumbent Earl O'Neal. Randal Mangham won the nomination with 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Ronnie Conner, according to complete, but unofficial returns from DeKalb and Rockdale precincts in the district.

In one of the few statewide races, the governor's appointee to the Public Service Commission, David Burgess, won his Democratic primary race against an 83-year-old challenger, Mac Barber, whose name has appeared on the Georgia ballot for generations.

Burgess, 41, is the first black to hold one of five seats on the regulatory panel. Barber, an ex-legislator, served four terms on the PSC but left in 1998 to run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor.

In returns from 2,817 of 2,920 precincts, Burgess had 55 percent to Barber's 45 percent.

In a second PSC race, Jim Boyd defeated Michael DiPietro for the right to challenge Republican incumbent Stan Wise in November.

About half of all legislative incumbents had no opposition in either the primary or general election.

Ninety-five of 180 House members were guaranteed safe return to their old legislative seats. Nineteen of 56 senators also were unopposed.

There were only a handful of open seats -- 12 in the House and two in the Senate.

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Wednesday, July 19, 2000


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