- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Georgia Republicans celebrated two surprising statewide victories last night, as Rep. Saxby Chambliss won a seat in the U.S. Senate and Sonny Perdue was elected the state's first Republican governor since Reconstruction.
The Republican gubernatorial victory stunned observers in Georgia, where incumbent Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes outspent the Perdue campaign by a 17-1 margin.
With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Perdue was defeating Mr. Barnes by more than 90,000 votes, 52 percent to 46 percent.
Mr. Perdue, a former state senator and ex-Democrat from rural south Georgia, was spurned by Atlanta's big political donors, who poured more than $15 million into the Barnes campaign.
The incumbent Democrat had alienated key constituencies in a state trending toward the Republican Party. Mr. Barnes' education-reform plan angered Georgia teachers, who said it deprived them of control of their classrooms, and black voters were upset that the governor had failed to support incumbent black Democratic Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, who was defeated in the party's primary.
Most of all, Mr. Barnes had alienated many white voters by pushing through a measure that diminished the Confederate symbol on the state flag.
"It was the flag, stupid," said Jim Arp, former chairman of the Floyd County Republican Party in northwest Georgia. "[Mr. Barnes] has also totally messed up the education system, and then tried to blame it on the teachers. He tried to spin that so it wasn't his fault."
Like many other Republicans in the state, Mr. Arp was cheering an apparent statewide surge by the party, including the victory of Phil Gingrey in the remapped 11th Congressional District, which the Democrats running the state legislature drew to favor their party.
Republicans received a boost from President Bush, who flew in to raise money and campaign for the party's candidates.
That Bush boost was key to Mr. Chambliss' defeat of incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland.
The Democrat had shown a steady lead in pre-election opinion polls, but with 88 percent of precincts reporting last night, Mr. Chambliss was winning by more than 100,000 votes, 53 percent to 46 percent.
The president had flown in to raise money and campaign for Mr. Chambliss, who in debates and ads sparred with Mr. Cleland over who was the staunchest Bush ally.
So strong was the state's Republican trend that even state House Speaker Tom Murphy the most powerful man in state government lost his District 18 seat to Republican Bill Heath.
Mr. Murphy, 78, was the longest-serving presiding officer of any legislative body in the nation.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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