David Lucas clout with east Macon voters was enough to push him past incumbent Miriam Paris in Tuesdays state Senate District 26 runoff.
That block of voters again will be crucial in Novembers general election if the former longtime lawmaker is to complete his political comeback, but his opponent, rural Republican Bobby Gale of Irwinton, has no plans to concede the Macon neighborhoods.
I have a belief that the economy in that area will need some work, and the education system will always need a tune-up, said Gale, pointing to the areas low graduation rate and high rates of incarceration and unemployment.
Hopefully well have a message that will resonate over there. Were going to do the best we can. We understand were going against somebody whos been doing this a long time.
The final, unofficial results from the runoff gave Lucas a narrow victory, 8,649 votes to 8,428. Paris won five of the districts seven counties -- Twiggs, Wilkinson, Washington, Hancock and Jones -- but that was not enough to overcome Lucas strong showing in Bibb County, where he finished with 1,751 more votes.
Lucas left his seat in the state House after 37 years to run last year for the Senate post vacated by the late Robert Brown, who ran unsuccessfully for Macon mayor. Paris, however, beat Lucas last year by more than 2,000 votes, and he was quick to note that last years special election was nonpartisan, which allowed Republicans to cross party lines and cast ballots for Paris.
This being a party primary is one reason I won, said Lucas.
In both elections, Lucas painted Paris as a Republican pawn. He took another dig at her Wednesday when saying he had no plans to take Gales candidacy lightly.
Were going to campaign the way weve always campaigned, he said. And this is a true Republican running as a Republican.
Lucas said he had not spoken with Paris after Tuesdays runoff. She did not return multiple calls from The Telegraph.
Lucas said he hopes to further improve his showing in the districts rural counties while also boosting the turnout.
We worked on it, getting our message out, knocking on doors and meeting the people. What we hope is since we made those contacts, well go back in those counties and go back to work. We have to do a better job of turning out the vote, getting our voters to the polls.
Gale, a minister, also ran for the Senate seat in last years special election, finishing third with 16 percent of the vote. He is director of Unto the Least of These, a ministry that builds water wells in Africa.
His experience building communities, building partnerships would offset what he might lack in political experience, he said.
I will have respect for the opposition, and I will have respect for human life, whether it be the unborn or the elderly, he said.
If elected, Gale said, he would focus on using rail infrastructure to the Port of Savannah to improve the economy and create jobs.
Lucas, meanwhile, said there are a lot of votes still out there.
What we did was great, but we were on a shoestring. What were going to have to do is not forget how we got where we are, that is not get in a lull or go to sleep. We got where we are by working hard, and thats what were going to have to continue.
Lucas said his priorities if elected would depend on the agenda of Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and the GOP-controlled Legislature.
The governors agenda is going to take priority over all, and his budget, he said. At the same time, you try to get out your message and try to do the things you want to do to help the district you represent. You have to work at it. Its not an easy thing.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.