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The nation had to wait for the results of the presidential election, but the dust settled quickly in the Fulton County, Ga., courthouse races. Emory University Political Science Professor Micheal W. Giles says the victories by District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. and Clerk of Court Juanita Hicks show the power of incumbent candidates to fend off negative publicity. Howard ran with the stigma of the public collapse of his office’s murder case against Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. Hicks contended with frequent charges that her office is inefficient. Democrat Howard defeated Republican challenger John M. Turner 54 percent to 46 percent. And longtime Fulton County Clerk of Courts Juanita Hicks, a Democrat, fended off a challenge from South Fulton activist and Republican Sandra B. Hardy, 57 percent to 43 percent. “In this case you’ve got not just a Democrat but an incumbent,” he says. “Unless he’s got a huge negative associated with him, you vote for the guy you know,” he says. Though the results would not be certified until Thursday and the absentee ballots had not been counted, the office had Howard winning 123,356 votes to Turner’s 103,953. The tally also showed more than 31,000 “under” votes: people who voted in other races, but left the DA’s race blank on their ballots. Turner’s campaign manager Dean Alverson says those under votes most likely hurt his candidate. “Unfortunately, I think those are Republican under votes,” he says. Giles says the under vote, or “rollover” as it’s sometimes called, is fairly common in races appearing low on the ballot. A presidential election may bring people to the polls, he says, but that doesn’t mean voters will cast votes in every race-especially if they know little about the candidates. “People are misers with regard to the time and energy they’re going to spend on an election,” he says. Turner had made an issue of the Ray Lewis case, calling it an embarrassment and blaming Howard for the failure. He also charged that Howard drove off experienced prosecutors by micromanaging the office. But as he celebrated in the downtown Hyatt on election night, Howard says voters saw past the Lewis case to what he calls his achievements in office. “I just think maybe the voters are a lot smarter than people give them credit for,” he says. “They can read between the lines.” Giles says he thinks the Ray Lewis case probably cost Howard votes, but the criticisms Turner raised did not resonate enough with the voters to turn an incumbent out of office. “There really hasn’t been the kind of buzz around the issues that you would need to get a win,” he says. “Those aren’t the kind of issues that light people’s fires.” More important to the voters, Howard says, was his expansion of the victim-witness program and increased sentences for people convicted of crimes against women. He says he will continue to push for his complaint room project and will rely on his core group of prosecutors to go after the list of lingering capital cases. Among them is the case against Freeman Salahuddin, accused of a quadruple homicide in 1995. Turner and Alverson had called the district attorney’s race an opportunity for the Republican Party to reach out to minority voters. Despite the loss, Alverson says Turner’s candidacy shows that black candidates can be legitimate Republican contenders for countywide office. “It’s time to be more aggressive about opening up the big tent,” he says. Across the state, three other contested district attorney races were decided. In Athens, Ga., former state solicitor general Kenneth W. Mauldin beat Republican James W. Smith with 61 percent of the vote. Mauldin had defeated longtime Western Circuit District Attorney Harry N. Gordon in the Democratic primary. In the Cordele Circuit, career prosecutor Denise D. Fachini defeated Patrick J. McDonough. Gov. Roy E. Barnes had appointed McDonough to replace John C. Pridgen, who took a seat on the Superior Court last year. The circuit includes the Georgia counties of Crisp, Ben Hill, Dooly and Wilcox counties. In Houston County, Republican District Attorney Kelly R. Burke won re-election, garnering 59 percent of the vote to defeat Democratic challenger A. Jack Kemp, a civil attorney from Warner-Robbins.

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