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Chambliss holds onto U.S. Senate seat

By Daniel Silliman and Johnny Jackson

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The incumbent Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss won re-election by a comfortable margin.

With more than 2 million votes counted in Tuesday's run-off race and 95 percent of the precincts counted, Chambliss held 57.5 percent of the vote, and Democrat Jim Martin had just 42.5 percent.

Martin reportedly conceded at about 10:30 p.m., and Chambliss claimed victory.

The runoff was described as a "bruising battle," by the Associated Press, and the GOP win gives the party a firewall against "Democrats eager to flex their newfound political muscle in Washington."

Chambliss' win denies the Democrats a veto-proof majority in the Senate. The Democrats needed 60 seats in the Senate to ensure a filibuster-proof majority. The possibility of a Democratic-dominated federal government brought a lot of attention to the Georgia runoff, and attracted big-name campaigners to the state.

Others called the race the first fight of the 2010 election. Chambliss' re-election was a resounding reaffirmation of conservative, Republican values, according to the national party's committee chairman, Robert "Mike" Duncan.

Duncan said the win "sends a strong and confident message" that "the Republican Party and our core conservative principles are alive and well."

Both Chambliss and Martin ran on their promised future relationships to President-elect Barrack Obama, with Martin borrowing Obama's campaign slogans and Chambliss promising to act as a firewall against liberals.

Some local voters said the make-up of the Senate in 2009 was the deciding factor, in the way they voted.

State Rep. John Lunsford (R-McDonough) said he wanted to deny single-party control of the federal government. "No one wants a fillibuster-proof Senate," he said. "I thought that it was imperative that we had a checks-and-balances system."

Patricia Wilson, a Jonesboro woman, was proud to vote for Martin, though, and wasn't looking for someone to stop Obama's agenda.

"We need people who can work together. There will be change," Wilson said.

Voter turnout was relatively strong in both Henry and Clayton counties.

In Henry County, 41.4 percent of the 113,805 registered voters cast their ballots. The Henry ballots went to Chambliss by almost the same percentage as the statewide totals, giving him 57.7 percent of their vote. The incumbent Republican won the county with a lead of more than 7,300 votes over Martin.

In Clayton County, about 33.5 percent of voters came to the polls. There are 149,057 people registered to vote in Clayton County and 31,550 of them cast their ballots for Martin, giving him more than 84 percent of the county total.

Chambliss, who came to Clayton County a number of times during the campaign, earned almost 6,000 votes.

Local voters said they were glad the race was over, though, regardless of the outcome. after being worn out by negative campaigning that continued straight through Thanksgiving.

Phil Thornton, an Army veteran and retired postal worker, said the campaign ads were kind of exhausting.

"If you look at it from the point of all the negative campaigning, I'm glad it is over," he said. "I would like to see some kind of togetherness on the part of all the parties."

Staff writers Joel Hall and Curt Yeomans contributed to this report.