Smyre fends off challenger for Georgia House seat

In an election year in which a lot of people have talked about change, voters in Columbus for the 18th time voted to put Calvin Smyre in the Georgia General Assembly.

With 100 percent of the precincts reporting Tuesday, Smyre had 4,332 votes to just 1,784 for opponent Zeph Baker. That's a little more than 70 percent of the vote going to Smyre, who was first elected in 1974. In the in-person absentee balloting, Smyre beat Baker 3,811 to 1,078.

"Everyone advised me to just run on my record, and that's what I did," said Smyre, a Democrat. "We ran an upbeat campaign and kept it on a high level. We talked about the issues, such as education, clean air, ample supply of water for this area and health care."

Although he hasn't had much opposition in the past, Smyre said he "dusted off the playbook" from campaigns he has helped run for other candidates.

Baker, running his first campaign, said he enjoyed the experience and this will not be his last race.

"I've gotten to meet a lot of people," he said. "I appreciate the support I've received."

Tuesday night, he said he was going to visit with Smyre and "shake his hand."

Smyre said he felt good all along about the campaign, noting he had done a lot of tracking. He said that running as an independent probably hurt his opponent.

"An independent just wouldn't have any voice in the legislature," Smyre said.

Smyre, 61, a graduate of Fort Valley State University, is vice president for corporate and external affairs at Synovus. This was the first time since 1978 Smyre was challenged for re-election.

He is president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and chairman of the state Democratic Caucus.

Baker, 32, is a graduate of Columbus State University and Carver High. He works as youth minister in his father's Methodist church, Spirit Filled Ministries.

Georgia House District 132 covers a large portion of south Columbus defined by the Manchester Expressway to the north, Fort Benning to the south, Interstate 185 to the east and the Chattahoochee River to the west.