This Year--The Year of the Republicans - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/24/02

This Year--The Year of the Republicans

Candidates try to introduce themselves to voters in new districts. Candidates try to introduce themselves to voters in new districts.
Burns won a seat made by Democrats for a Democrat. Burns won a seat made by Democrats for a Democrat.
Cathy Cox, pleased the new machines worked so well. Cathy Cox, pleased the new machines worked so well.
Perdue, stunned but happy with his victory. Perdue, stunned but happy with his victory.

2002 was a big year in politics across the nation. In Georgia, voters ended 130 years of Democratic dominance, electing a Republican governor. The political year turned volatile when a controversial and chaotic redistricting plan, intended to favor Democrats, was pushed through the legislature by Governor Roy Barnes. WTOC's Dal Cannady captured the essence of it all, in Metter.

"To give you an idea how drastic these line are," he reported, "this side of the street in Metter falls into a district that goes through Toombs, Montgomery, and Wheeler County all the way to Alamo. The other side is in one that includes Emanuel, Johnson Counties and curls northward above Dublin."

Candidates scrambled to introduce themselves to voters in strangely shaped districts, like the new Congressional 12th, stretching from Savannah through Augusta to Athens. But after what were called upset victories in the primary and the general elections, a professor turned Congressman may not have realized how accurately he summed his race, and more.

"It was certainly the district was created by Democrats for a Democrat," Max Burns said. "But I think the message was they preferred a strong conservative voice in Washington."

More on that in a moment, but voters in that race and others were also tasked with learning how to use brand new voting machines as Georgia became the first state in America to provide a means of uniform electronic voting statewide.

"It was really easy. I kept hearing the analogy about the microwave oven. It really was easy and either I just voted successfully, or my cup of tea is ready, one of the two," joked voter Mimi Witherington of Austell.

The mastermind behind it, Secretary of State Cathy Cox, was rewarded with reelection and lots of positive feedback, though there were nervous moments on election day.

"My husband got to my polling place before I did this morning, and he saw an elderly woman walking out, shaking her fist and he thought, 'Oh my goodness, we've got a problem,'" she recalled. "But, when he walked by her, she said, 'We're finally in the 21st century,' and that's been the response that we've heard lots of places in this state. They're glad this old worn-out equipment we've been using is gone and they like it. "

But voters got rid of more than old voting equipment, turning out Democratic Senator Max Cleland and Governor Roy Barnes. Momentum peaked with a Presidential visit to Savannah. And the results shocked even the victors.

"You've stunned not only me, you've stunned Georgia, you've stunned the nation tonight," said Governor-elect Sonny Perdue.

Former State Senator, former Democrat, now Republican Perdue of Bonnaire, Houston County, beat back a campaign for Governor Roy Barnes that outspent the history-making challenger six to one.

The shocked Democratic faithful in downtown Atlanta reluctantly started trying to figure out why Barnes fell short.

Join us as we count down the 11 biggest stories of the year on Saturday, December 28, at 9pm on WOTC-TV.

Reported by: Sonny Dixon, sonnyd@wtoc.com

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