Paris defeats Lucas handily in Senate runoff

pramati@macon.comAugust 17, 2011 

The career of one of Middle Georgia’s longest-serving politicians is over -- at least for now.

Former Macon City Council President Miriam Paris ended former state Rep. David Lucas’ 37 years of political service with an unofficial 12,950-10,220 vote victory in Tuesday’s runoff in the special election for the District 26 state Senate seat formerly held by Robert Brown.

Paris took 55.9 percent of the vote, well ahead of Lucas’ 44.1 percent.

In front of a crowd of about 60 supporters at her real estate office in downtown Macon, Paris was introduced by her father, Javors Lucas, as “the next senator for this state.”

“First, I want to thank everyone,” Paris told the crowd. “Everyone gathered, to all my supporters, it’s been a great night.”

Lucas had a sizeable group of supporters at his campaign office on Cotton Avenue. He said the race came down to Republican support for Paris, noting the heavy disparity in favor of his opponent from predominantly white precincts in Bibb County.

“The race was never about the issues,” Lucas said. “It was about the tea party Republicans. Look at the Republican precincts. They voted against David Lucas. It’s about having an ‘R’ in front of your name.”

Paris, 51, said she has always been a Democrat.

“It was a great night for District 26, it was a great night for women and it was a great night for Democrats,” Paris told supporters. “I’m here for all the people of District 26, whether you supported me or not.”

In fact, the election was a nonpartisan race to replace Brown. Brown resigned his Senate seat earlier this year to run in the Macon mayoral election, where he finished a distant third to Mayor Robert Reichert and former Mayor C. Jack Ellis in July.

Lucas subsequently resigned as a state representative to run for Brown’s seat. Paris, who briefly toyed with the idea of running for mayor, soon announced her own candidacy for Senate.

Paris said she faced a huge task in challenging Lucas.

“I was up against (essentially) an incumbent of almost four decades,” she said. “But we stayed steady and we stayed on point. I think people were ready for a change. That’s the sentiment across the country, and it’s the sentiment here.”

Outside of Bibb County, Lucas had a slight advantage over Paris. He beat her by a single vote in Twiggs County, 546-545, and took Wilkinson County, 546-408. Houston County had a miniscule turnout with just 262 total votes out of about 7,000 eligible voters. Lucas won that county 161-101.

In Bibb, Paris ran strongest in many of the same areas where Reichert did well Tuesday in his winning re-election campaign his against Ellis. Paris took 89 percent of the vote in the Howard 1 and 4 precincts in northwest Macon, for example, and captured 90 percent of the vote in the Vineville 6 precinct. All the vote totals from Tuesday night are unofficial until certified by the secretary of state.

During the July 19 special election, Paris garnered more than 7,500 votes, good for 45 percent of the total vote.

Lucas finished second with 39 percent, with about 1,300 fewer votes than Paris. Republican Bobby Gale of Wilkinson County finished third with 16 percent of the vote.

Lucas, 61, was first elected to the state Legislature in 1974 and served as a representative for 37 years before deciding to step down and seek Brown’s seat.

Lucas sustained a heart attack May 29 and had two blockages removed, but that hardly slowed him down on the campaign trail.

He touted his experience over Paris, who was elected to Macon City Council in a special election in 2006 and became council president the following year.

The race between Paris and Lucas grew more intense in the past couple of weeks, when Lucas accused his opponent of ducking his debate invitations. He also claimed she didn’t have the experience to serve in the Senate, and he accused her of being backed by Republicans.

Paris countered those charges by saying that if Lucas hadn’t accomplished anything in more than 30 years, it was time for a change.

Paris said she wanted to bring about fiscally responsible tax reform in the state and modernize the tax code, as well as cut government waste. In terms of midstate issues, she is a strong proponent of consolidation and nonpartisan primaries.

Lucas isn’t certain of his next move. He joked with a supporter on a telephone call that he was going to “see what it was like to be retired.”

He didn’t rule out returning to politics in the future, but he said he is still trying to get used to the idea of not serving in government.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said. “This is the first time in 37 years that I’ve had the time to think about it.”

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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