This week’s election proved that Augusta-Richmond County is definitely an entirely different town than it was 20 years ago.
First off, it was a bad week for those with ties to the former political powerhouse, state Sen. Charles Walker.
To many people’s surprise, attorney Monique Walker, who also happens to be the daughter of the former state senator, came in third in the race for the State Court judgeship being vacated by Judge John Flythe.
Most people assumed it would be a runoff between Walker and local attorney Robert “Bo” Hunter III, but Kellie Kenner McIntyre, who is the current Richmond County State Court solicitor general and also happens to be the daughter-in-law of former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre, pulled in 33 percent of the votes cast on May 24.
Hunter came in first with almost 37 percent, while Walker received about 30 percent of the votes.
So the July 26 runoff will be between Hunter and McIntyre.
Some voters were amazed that McIntyre was able to come in second place considering she was slammed just a few weeks ago in a lengthy Sunday story published in The Augusta Chronicle about the tremendous backlog in the Richmond County Solicitor’s Office.
The story written by Chronicle staff writer Sandy Hodson said that nearly $1.4 million from fines paid by thousands of residents for minor traffic tickets before Jan. 1, 2014 and some cash bonds that people put up to get others out of jail has been sitting untouched in a bank account for years.
Apparently, that money has been just sitting there because of the backup in paperwork in the Richmond County Solicitor’s Office, according to the Chronicle.
With such harsh criticism being tossed her way right before the election, the question quickly became: So, then, why did so many voters still support McIntyre?
As corky local attorney and former judicial candidate Chris Nicholson likes to say, “It was caused by the white devil.”
Many people in Augusta, especially those in the black community, feel William S. Morris III, the founder of Morris Communications Co. and publisher of The Augusta Chronicle, is way too heavy handed when it comes to local politics.
“The white devil is Billy Morris,” Nicholson announced during a political forum a few weeks ago. “He went after the black politicians. He went after Charles Walker. He went after other people and he tried to destroy all of the black leadership in Augusta. What I’m telling you is, we need to get rid of the white devil. We don’t need him running our government.”
There is a reason Nicholson received cheers and thunderous applause that night, especially from members of the black community, during the forum.
The truth is, a lot of people don’t trust the Chronicle when it comes to stories during an election season.
The public is always looking for the newspaper’s hidden agenda, whether it exists or not.
Slinging mud at McIntyre a week before the election probably actually helped her more than it hurt her because it ended up ticking off some voters.
And chances are, McIntyre will likely get the majority of Walker’s supporters and, therefore, beat Hunter in the runoff.
So, if the Chronicle was hoping to hurt McIntyre right before the election, they messed up.
The newspaper most likely handed her the judicial seat, instead.
And who was the other person connected to Walker that struck out?
Candidate Gregory Hill over in the House District 124 race.
Longtime incumbent Rep. Henry “Wayne” Howard easily beat Hill, the retired Army combat veteran, who also happens to be the former husband of Monique Walker.
Even though Hill isn’t a blood relative of former Sen. Walker, he still was handily beaten at the polls.
Another candidate with political ties that was defeated this week was longtime Marshal Steve Smith.
Here, Smith had severed as marshal in Richmond County for 28 years and has been in local law enforcement for almost 40 years, but he still lost to challenger Ramone Lamkin, who was the head of the Traffic Safety Division of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
But the race was actually much closer than many people thought it was going to be.
Politicos watching the race initially thought Lamkin was going to beat Smith by more than 60 percent after seeing that the advance voter turnout in Richmond County was overwhelmingly Democrat.
Even though this was a nonpartisan race, the general sentiment was that more Democrats would support Lamkin, while more Republicans would support Smith.
And, believe it or not, that’s not because of the races of the two candidates.
It’s no secret that Smith was once a longtime supporter of Republican and former state Rep. Robin Williams.
Yep. That’s the same Robin Williams who served almost 10 years in federal prison for scheming to steal more than $2 million from the local community mental health center.
So, when folks saw that Democrats killed in early voting compared to the Republicans in Richmond County, many thought Smith was toast.
While he still lost the election, Smith won 48 percent of the votes cast, while Lamkin received 52 percent.
It was a good effort, but Smith still has to walk away from a position he has held for almost three decades.
That won’t be easy.
Finally, over in the race for the District 24 seat in Columbia County currently held by retiring state Sen. Bill Jackson, there will be another runoff.
Five Republican candidates were vying for that position including former state Rep. Lee Anderson; President of Sherman & Hemstreet Real Estate Company, Joe Edge; former District 3 candidate on Columbia County Commission, Greg Grzybowski; former chairwoman of the Columbia County Republican Party, Pat Goodwin; and Realtor and mayor of Bowman, Ga., Peter Gibbons.
But Anderson came in first with more than 40 percent of the votes cast. Greg Grzybowski, a former District 3 candidate for the Columbia County Commission, came in second with about 22 percent of the vote.
The two will face off in the July 26 runoff.
The winner of the Republican primary will run against Democratic candidate Brenda Jordan in November.
So, hang on, folks. This election season is far from over.