Augusta Mayor Bob Young chose a curious phrase in commenting on his narrow electoral win Tuesday over Ed McIntyre.
His task, he says, is to redeem Augustas pride.
Redemption is what McIntyres string of unsuccessful runs for office has been all about. Ever since he was released from prison for his 20-year-old bribery conviction, McIntyre has sought public office as a way of earthly redemption for what he calls a mistake, and for which he says God has already forgiven him.
Thankfully, the occupants of the chunk of earth within the boundaries of Richmond County have not seen fit to redeem McIntyre by returning him to political office. But it is still mind-boggling that so many people favored McIntyres election for one or both of two reasons:
1. They despise Bob Young; or,
2. Their vote is based purely on race.
Neither of these two groups, some of whom cross over to the other, seem to have much trouble with McIntyres criminal record - preferring, instead, to find nothing but success in McIntyres record of service, and nothing but failure in Youngs.
Well. Reckoning time is here. This is no longer about Ed McIntyres redemption; it really is about the redemption of our neighboring city from the long shadow of misrule by a cadre of people whose grip on Augusta would have been renewed, but not redeemed, had McIntyre eked out a victory instead of a narrow loss.
Its all about Charles Walker. Walker, if you remember, proposed changes to Augustas government to give more power to the mayor, and then overnight a group of ministers stepped forward to oppose those changes.
The resulting gridlock, Augustas only consistency, was no coincidence: Those protests were driven by Walker, who wanted to have it both ways. In the white community, he could say he was in favor of reform. But in the black community his yes-men could keep the plan from moving forward.
Is it any wonder, then, that Walker is challenging his election loss to Randy Hall in court, yet has the audacity to tell reporters that he doesnt actually want the election overturned? It was just such people for whom the term forked tongue was coined.
Had McIntyre won, not only would Augustas promising future immediately begun draining down the river, but Walker would have had his own redemption. While Democrats were routed across the state in the General Election, McIntyres victory would have been both a backlash to perceived excesses and a way to smooth Walkers own reentry to political life.
Remember: Augusta commissioners last year almost hired McIntyre as a lobbyist; Walker would have been in that post come January had McIntyre been redeemed by voters.
Fortunately, Augusta voters instead chose to redeem themselves - along with Bob Young, who now gets a second chance to make a first impression. Hes learned through trial and error, lots of error, in the past four years how to become a good mayor. The next four years will not only give him an opportunity to put that experience to work for the city, but it comes just as Augustas legislative delegation - with Walker out, and with Don Cheeks as chairman - is poised to deliver the citys greatest successes in years.
Columbia County, of course, will share in this success. Cheeks also is our senator, and with Sen. Joey Brush and state Reps. Barry Fleming and Ben Harbin, there is a teamwork potential previously unavailable as long as Walker was the captain.
There is plenty of work to do. Good luck, Bob.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal@ newstimesonline.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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