Tuesday’s special election left former Macon City Council President Miriam Paris and former state Rep. David Lucas gearing up for another month on the campaign trail, leading up to an Aug. 16 runoff for the state Senate District 26 seat.
Neither candidate captured a majority of the vote in the election, which featured the two Democrats in a race with Republican Bobby Gale vying for the seat vacated by former Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown. Brown, who had held the post since 1991, left the state Capitol to run for mayor of Macon.
Both candidates say they plan to stick with the campaign strategies that got them to this point.
“We don’t have any more of a strategy than we’ve had,” Paris said Wednesday. “For us, it’s about reaching the people and hearing what they have to say as we do that.”
Lucas said he doesn’t plan to change his focus either, sticking with focusing on the issues in the campaign.
Paris was the frontrunner Tuesday, taking about 45 percent of the vote. Lucas won 39 percent, and Gale took 16 percent of the votes for the Senate seat that represents east Macon, a portion of Houston County, most of Wilkinson County and all of Twiggs County.
“I think we did really good considering there was a third person in the race and the name recognition I was up against,” said Paris. “To have held (Lucas) to under 40 percent, and our numbers were very impressive, I’m very proud of that.”
Lucas previously represented state House District 139 for 37 years. He gave up that seat, which overlaps the east Macon area covered by Senate District 26, to enter the Senate race, but said he wasn’t surprised by the results.
He called Bibb County, where Paris tallied 8,429 votes while Lucas got 7,012, the “battleground.”
“Anybody that’s involved in politics isn’t surprised when anything happens,” Lucas said of Tuesday’s results. “There is no guarantee in politics. ... The results were that the Republican Party came out and campaigned against David Lucas, not the issues.”
He said he wants to challenge Paris to a debate on the issues.
Lucas said that while he has a proven track record in the state Legislature, “You can’t point to one thing that Ms. Paris did on City Council.”
Paris pointed to the voter numbers in Bibb County as proof of her past leadership.
“I think (the people of Macon and Bibb County) have come to trust and know that they can count on me to get the job done, and I think that is what was reflected in the numbers -- proven leadership that is responsive to the people’s voices,” she said.
Leading up to the runoff, Lucas said he wants to talk about the issues that affect all of District 26, such as Robins Air Force Base and bringing jobs to Twiggs and Wilkinson counties.
Paris struggled a bit in Twiggs and Wilkinson counties, falling short of both Lucas and Gale there.
“Wilkinson clearly went with the hometown guy, and that’s understandable,” she said of Gale. “Twiggs, I really don’t know what happened there, but we certainly will be giving more attention there than we were. We do plan to cover (those areas) more, as well as Warner Robins.”
Paris took more than half of the votes in Houston County, but just 23 percent and 14 percent in Twiggs and Wilkinson, respectively.
Lucas won 43 percent of the Twiggs County vote and 38 percent in Wilkinson County.
“We know we had some weak spots in there, and we’re just going to continue to work like we’ve been doing because we think it’s not broken,” Paris said.
If both candidates receive the same support in August as they did Tuesday, the 16 percent of voters who came out in support of Gale could tip the scale.
Lucas said he couldn’t tell just yet what impact Gale being out of the running would have on the election. Gale has not publicly announced whether he will endorse either candidate and could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
While capturing Gale’s votes could put either candidate over the hump, getting their current supporters back out to the polls in August will be key, as well.
Lucas said he would simply “work at” getting voters out next month. “That’s the only thing I can do,” he said.
Paris also plans to re-energize her base and let those voters know it’s not over until Aug. 16.
“They’ve gotten me to the 1-yard line,” she said. “Let’s go for the goal.”
To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 744-4347.