In Tuesday’s primary election, Karen Handel won the Republican U.S. Senate race in Fulton County, her home county, but opponents David Perdue and Jack Kingston advanced to a July 22 runoff based on statewide results.
According to the Fulton County Registration and Elections website, with all 365 precincts reporting, Handel had 40.0 percent to lead the seven-person race. Perdue was second with 33.0 percent, followed by Kingston (15.4 percent), Phil Gingrey (5.7 percent), Paul Broun (3.7 percent), Art Gardner (1.5 percent) and Derrick Grayson (0.8 percent).
But statewide, with all 159 counties reporting, Perdue and Kingston were the top two vote-getters with 30.6 percent and 26.0 percent, respectively. Handel was third statewide with 21.4 percent.
In the Democratic U.S. Senate battle between four candidates, as expected, Michelle Nunn had a commanding victory with 77.3 percent in Fulton and 75.3 percent statewide. Trailing statewide were Steen Miles (11.1 percent), Todd Robinson (10.2 percent) and Branco Radulovacki (3.4 percent). Incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss is retiring.
In the Republican race for governor, incumbent Nathan Deal won with 72.1 percent, followed by David Pennington (16.7 percent) and John Barge (11.2 percent). Democrat Jason Carter is running unopposed.
In the secretary of state battle between Democrats Doreen Carter and Gerald Beckum, Carter won with 68.5 percent. She will face incumbent Republican Brian Kemp in November.
In the Democratic race for insurance commissioner, Elizabeth Johnson defeated Keith Heard with 69.6 percent. Johnson will face incumbent Republican Ralph Hudgins in November.
In the crowded fields for state school superintendent, Michael Buck and Richard Woods advanced to a runoff in the nine-person Republican race with 19.6 percent and 16.9 percent, respectively, and Valarie Wilson (31.9 percent) and Alisha Morgan (26.4 percent) are heading to a runoff in the six-person Democratic battle. Barge is vacating the post to run for governor.
On the Republican side, rounding out the candidates were Mary Kay Bacallau (15.4 percent), Ashley Bell (15.1 percent), Nancy Jester (10.5 percent), Sharyl Dawes (5.5 percent), Fitz Johnson (7.7 percent), Allen Fort (6.3 percent) and Kira Willis (3.1 percent).
Marion Freeman (18.7 percent), Arnisha Dent (13.7 percent), Jurita Mays (5.7 percent) and Rita Robinzine (3.6 percent) round out the Democratic race.
In the lone contested Public Service Commission race, incumbent Republican Lauren “Bubba” McDonald won with 62.3 percent. Challengers Douglas Kidd (20.9 percent) and Charles Lutz (16.8 percent) were well behind.
In the Republican District 11 U.S. House race, Ed Lindsey led his home county with 47.6 percent but districtwide, Barry Loudermilk (36.6 percent) and Bob Barr (25.8 percent) advanced to a runoff. Districtwide, Tricia Pridemore (17.1 percent), Lindsey (14.8 percent), Larry Mrozinski (4.0 percent) and Allan Levene (1.7 percent) rounded out the race. Gingrey is leaving the seat to run for U.S. Senate.
There are only two contested local state Senate races. In the District 36 Democratic election, incumbent Nan Orrock beat Angela Stovall with 70.8 percent of the vote. Incumbent Horacena Tate defeated challenger Reginald Crossley with 76.2 percent in the District 38 Democratic race.
In the only opposed Georgia House election, Beth Beskin nearly won the four-person Republican District 54 field outright with 49.9 percent. In a runoff she will face John McCloskey, who had 30.3 percent. Loretta Lepore (14.7 percent) and Angelic Moore (5.1 percent) rounded out the candidates. Lindsey is vacating the post to run for Congress. The district includes historic Brookhaven and most of Buckhead. The winner will face Democrat Bob Gibeling and independent Bill Bozarth in November.
There are three local contested races for the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, where the district maps have been redrawn. Lee Morris won the largest race in the group, the four-person Republican District 3 election, with 57.2 percent. He is followed by Bernie Tokarz (17.3 percent), Cory Ruth (15.6 percent), and Alexander Palacios (10.0 percent). District 3 includes all of Buckhead and part of Sandy Springs, and incumbent Tom Lowe is retiring.
In District 2, which includes part of Sandy Springs, Bob Ellis beat Eric Broadwell with 65.6 percent. In at-large District 7, the battle for the chairman’s seat, incumbent John Eaves barely kept his seat against Robb Pitts with 50.4 percent. Eaves will face Republican Earl Cooper in November.
In the three contested nonpartisan Fulton County Superior Court judge races, incumbents won two of them and a third is headed to a runoff. Incumbent Tom Campbell beat Thomas Cox with 60.1 percent and incumbent Kelly Lee edged Pat Jackson with 53.1 percent.
“I’m very happy that I was re-elected,” Campbell said of his win. “I love my job and I wanted to continue on with another term and the outcome to me was very positive.”
Campbell was elected to his third full term. He was appointed to the bench by Gov. Sonny Perdue in 2004 and previously served as a state representative.
“I think it was my experience” that was the key to victory, Campbell said. “I talked during the campaign and in all my literature about the fact that I had 40 years of private law practice, and 15 of those years I spent in the state Legislature making the laws. I also had seven years of Municipal Court judgeship, which prepared me for being a Superior Court judge. I have now just completed 10 years as a Superior Court judge. That along with the Atlanta Bar Association rating me as the best qualified for the job. All of those things resonated with the voters.”
In the three-person race for retiring Judge Cynthia Wright’s seat, Jane Barwick nearly won it outright with 49.6 percent. In a runoff she will face Robertson, who had 31.6 percent. Shondeana Crews-Morris had 18.7 percent.
“I’m excited,” Barwick said of reaching the runoff. “As a first-time candidate, I was extremely gratified to get such a high percentage and to have such a sizable margin over the nearest candidate. It was really amazing to watch all our hard work actually turn into voters going to the polls to vote for me. And naturally I was very pleased to see such a broad base of support.”
She said the key to advancing to the runoff was “getting our message out that I was rated best qualified by the Atlanta Bar Association, that I have been a trial lawyer my entire career and that I am the only candidate with experience as a judge in that I have been a Magistrate [Court] judge in the Fulton County Superior Court for the past two years. I think voters had a good chance to evaluate that experience, and I am honored that such a large percentage voted for me as the best choice.
“The challenge now is to get everyone back to the polls on July 22 and to broaden our base of support even more. We don’t have to change or retool. We just have to let everyone see our excitement about continuing the race and our commitment to getting the best judge on the bench. The candidate’s obligation is to communicate the critical role of this court and the urgency of choosing the best candidate. The voter’s obligation is to research the facts and to take advantage of our privilege to vote.”
Robertson said she was “excited” to advance to the runoff.
The key to reaching the runoff, she said, was “just a lot of grassroots efforts, going out and reaching as many voters as I possibly could. Voters resonated with my 30 years of experience in public service and [were] liking my message.”
In the Fulton County Board of Education races, only four of the seven board members are up for re-election and only two are opposed. In District 6, which includes part of south Fulton, incumbent Katherine Maddox won with 57.7 percent, followed by DeAndre Pickett (30.3 percent) and Joel Joseph (11.9 percent).
“I felt great. … I have a proven track record and it spoke for itself,” Maddox said of the victory. “We are doing great things in my district. We’re closing the student achievement gap. We have innovative programs in our schools, we are building new schools in my district and also doing major renovations in our older schools. We’re working on making all of our schools Schools of Excellence. I am elated that I was re-elected. I want to continue the great work we are doing in Fulton County and make sure that all students get an education of excellence, no matter where they live.”
Maddox, who was elected to her third term, said her record was the key to the win.
“I had the endorsement of the elected officials in my district. They know the work I’ve done,” she said. “I’m a full-time servant of the people. This is a full-time commitment to me.”
Maddox also said she was happy her opponents, especially Pickett, ran a clean, positive race. She won, she said, despite problems with at least one malfunctioning voting at Brookview Elementary School in East Point.
“A former elected official, Jackie Slaughter-Gibbons, called me and said [her] vote for me went to my opponent, DeAndre Pickett. There was confusion,” Maddox said, adding a poll worker there fixed the problem shortly after it was discovered.
Slaughter-Gibbons said the voting machine she used selected both Pickett instead of Maddox and Fulton County Superior Court judge candidate Shondeanna Crews-Morris instead of her choice for that seat, Shelitha Robertson. She said when she alerted a poll worker, she had to start over the voting process at least two times before the problem was fixed.
In District 7, which includes part of north Fulton including part of Sandy Springs, incumbent Julia Bernath beat Kate Wittschen with 53.3 percent.
“It was a tight race and I’m very grateful to have an opportunity to continue my service,” said Bernath, who was elected to her fourth full term. She was appointed the school board in 2000 to fill an unexpired term and then ran for election a year later to complete that four-year cycle.
When asked what was the key to victory was, Bernath said, “I think that the support I received from the people who support our schools, the parents who are engaged at the schools, along with the reputation I’ve built for being a consensus builder and working to do what’s right for children, helped give me the advantage.
In Cobb County, in the only contested Superior Court judge race, Ann Harris and Juanita Stedman advanced to a runoff with 40.8 percent and 31.6 percent, respectively. Nathan Wade had 27.6 percent. Incumbent Jim Bodiford is retiring.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the numbers,” Harris said of advancing to the runoff. “I was cautiously optimistic I would be in the runoff but pleasantly surprised with the numbers. It’s very humbling to realize so many people in Cobb County who don’t know me trusted me to do the job of being a Superior Court judge and trusted me to do it right. I realize the election is not over and there’s a runoff, but almost 24,000 people [voted for] me. It also motives me to do the job right and continue to earn the trust they gave you. …
“I know the message I tried to communicate early and often was that I think public safety is very important for the people who live in the Cobb County community. It begins with good law enforcement, but it ends with good judges on the bench. I tried to emphasize to them that my 19-plus years in the [Cobb] district attorney’s office makes me attuned to ... the need to have judges for whom public safety is a priority. Another thing I tried to emphasize is every day for 19 years I have been practicing law in Superior Court. I have been there every week. I think it matters to have someone on the bench who has done it longer than my opponents. I emphasized that aspect of my experience. I will continue to work very hard to earn the voters’ trust. If they do elect me at the next Superior Court judge, I will work very hard on the bench to keep that trust and make good on it.”
Said Stedman, “It’s feels great [to be in the runoff]. I think probably the key was the work we did. I had a very well-organized group of volunteers who worked very hard to get me there. I also think if you look at my financial disclosures, I have a tremendous amount of support from the bar [association]. Ann Harris is pretty much self-funded. My support is grassroots. Those two things combined got me to the runoff.
Stedman said she was disappointed with the low turnout in the primary.
“I hope we’ll have higher turnout in the runoff,” she said. “That will be the key for any of us as candidates, getting people to the polls. We’ve already started working on that today and will be working on that 24/7 until July 22, so we’re off and running.”
The only Cobb County Board of Education race affecting Vinings residents was Post 2, where three Republicans battled. With all 19 precincts reporting according to the secretary of state's website, Susan Thayer and incumbent Tim Stultz advanced to a runoff with 45.1 percent and 33.8 percent, respectively. Jeff Abel had 21.1 percent. The winner faces Democrat Kenya Pierre.
“If we had received 203 more votes, we would have won the election without a runoff,” Thayer said. “We won in 13 of the 19 precincts, tied in one more and lost by three votes in another one. I'm very pleased with those results, particularly since this was my first experience in politics, and because we received 11 percent more votes than the incumbent. Many dedicated people worked hard to achieve this success.”
What was the key to advancing to the runoff?
“I think the people who supported me believed that my credential[s] and experience made me the best person to serve as their one voice on the board of education,” Thayer said. “First, I would like to thank the many people who worked in this campaign and those who voted for me. I sincerely appreciate the confidence they have shown in me, and I will always strive to maintain that confidence. Also, I would like to thank my opponents for running respectful, courteous campaigns. Lastly, I would like to thank Jeff and Traci Abel for their dedication to our schools; their parental support is exemplary.”
Stultz said he was pleased to advance to the runoff.
“Any time you can keep the race going, that’s always a good thing,” he said. “It’s about turnout, trying to make sure your name still remains out there [on voters’ minds]. There [were] two other opponents trying to do the same thing. In a local race, it’s all about turnout.
“We’re going to keep fighting and see what happens in July.”
On the Democratic ballots, voters gave a resounding “yes” answer to all four questions. On the first, “Should Georgia raise the state minimum wage above the current $6.16 an hour?” 97.3 percent said yes. On the second, “Should Georgians’ federal tax dollars be returned to Georgia to fund Medicaid expansion and relive the indigent care burden on our hospitals?” 91.7 percent said yes. On the third, “Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended to create an independent ethics commission, not tied to the governor’s office, Legislature or other elected office, to more effectively police potential ethics violations by elected officials?” 90.7 percent said yes. On the fourth, “Should the Constitution of Georgia be amended to make the education budget Georgia’s first funding priority?” 87.5 percent said yes. Statewide, the percentage of people voting "yes" to all of those questions was slightly lower.
All election results are unofficial until certified by either the secretary of state's office or each county's elections office.
Statewide, turnout was 19.5 percent, and judging by the number of residents casting ballots at three area polling places Tuesday, the local turnout was similarly low.
As of 8:10 a.m., only 11 people had voted at Sandy Springs’ High Point Elementary School, which has 4,587 registered voters, Poll Manager Nate Bednar said.
“It’s been very slow, he said. "I’m hoping it will pick up later today.”
The turnout in Fulton County is expected to be about 20 percent.
At Sarah Smith Elementary School in Buckhead, only about 150 had cast their votes at the polling location as of 12:45 p.m., though more than 3,000 are registered to vote there, said Poll Manager Mary Foster.
“[The turnout is] not really less than I expected, but it’s been slow,” she said.
Foster said the busiest time of the day was about 11 a.m.
Judging by the turnout at three local polling places Tuesday, turnout in the primary election has been low.
At Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead, only 293 of the about 1,400 registered voters had cast ballots as of 6:52 p.m., Poll Manager John Packman said.
“It’s been slow,” he said. "It picked up during lunch and when kids got out of school.”
- Staff Writer Nicole Dow contributed to this report