Early voters help Slater take D.A. office

In a race that first appeared too close to call, Columbus' advance votes look as if they've catapulted challenger Julia Fessenden Slater into the District Attorney's Office.

Democrat Slater, 42, took 71,445 votes, or 56 percent. Incumbent Republican Gray Conger took 55,486 votes, or 44 percent.

Those numbers include precinct returns and in-person absentee voting in Columbus. Throughout the six-county circuit, 92 percent of the vote had been counted as of 1:30 a.m. today.

"We remained very encouraged," Slater said about watching the poll numbers come in. "It was a bit of a roller coaster. It was a very energetic atmosphere."

All precincts from the six counties in the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit had not yet come in as of 1 a.m. today.

Slater is an attorney in private practice. She worked in the District Attorney's office for 10 years before becoming a defense attorney.

Slater had said she wanted to run for the office because she saw a need for change and because she was approached by various people who wanted her to run.

Conger, 62, was appointed district attorney in 1995 and first elected to it the next year. He's served in the office since 1973. He's had opportunities to run for other positions but said he wanted to remain on the third floor of the Columbus Government Center where the district attorney has its offices.

Conger had said he wanted to continue in his job to oversee high-profile cases such as the Doctors Hospital slayings and the double homicide in Harris County. Also, he has plans for slight personnel changes, perhaps shifting employees to different positions.

Conger had said he feared some of his employees wouldn't have stayed in the office if his opponent won. He pointed to a recent murder case with three defendants prosecuted by an assistant of his. Conger said that case was beyond the ability of 90 percent of prosecutors, and he didn't want to lose employees like that.