Professor: District attorney’s race decided by party line voting

awomack@macon.comNovember 7, 2012 

Although the candidates spent more than $150,000 campaigning to be district attorney, Tuesday’s race in the Macon Judicial Circuit was decided by party-line voting.

“Ninety-nine percent of the election is explained by people casting party ballots,” said Chris Grant, an associate professor of political science at Mercer University.

Vote totals for David Cooke, a Democrat, and incumbent Greg Winters, a Republican, mirrored tallies in the presidential race from Bibb, Crawford and Peach counties.

Cooke won the race with 55 percent of the vote. He and President Barack Obama carried Bibb and Peach counties, while Winters and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won in Crawford County.

Only about 1 percent of the vote in the district attorney’s race deviated from party lines, Grant said.

Bibb and Peach counties tend to elect Democrats while Crawford County has a growing base of Republican support, he said.

Winters’ win in a 2010 special election run-off can be attributed to a higher proportion of Republicans than Democrats voting in an election with lower turnout, Grant said. Tuesday’s election had a more typical turnout in the three counties.

When he takes office in January, Cooke will be the first Macon Judicial Circuit district attorney elected to the post in more than a century who hasn’t previously worked as a prosecutor in the circuit.

Like the other nine new chief prosecutors elected across the state Tuesday, Cooke will face several challenges when he takes office in January, said Charles A. “Chuck” Spahos, executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia.

New district attorneys must make the transition from managing their own work to becoming administrators. Each office also has its own management style and staff personalities, Spahos said.

Some employees in the district attorney’s office are considering whether they will remain on the job after Cooke takes charge in January.

If staff members quit or are fired during the transition, it would be two months before Cooke can hire replacements. The council has imposed a hiring freeze, delaying new hires, as a reflection of the economy, Spahos said.

Assistant District Attorney Sharell Lewis said the mood in the office Wednesday was “somber.” She said there was an air of uncertainty as staffers anxiously await news of Cooke’s plans once he is sworn in.

Cooke said he spent part of Wednesday meeting with victims’ advocates and gathering information about how cases involving child victims are being handled now.

In large part, he attributed his win to the advocates and crime victims who helped his campaign.

He wants to establish a multidisciplinary task force to review cases with child victims. Members would include victims’ advocates, prosecutors, forensic interviewers and investigators.

“It makes sure everything is done right at the beginning,” he said.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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