election day at pollsCandidates react after election results announced Tuesday night.
Incumbent Gary Lewis defeated challenger Nathan Queen to earn another four years as Statesboro’s District 2 City Council member.
After all the votes were counted Tuesday night, Lewis won with 359 votes to Queen’s 189. Even if the race’s 140 challenged and provisional ballots all went to Queen, he would still fall short by 30 votes.
Lewis said he wants to support the GSU student community “in the lawful way, and the right way.”
The student vote became a major factor in the election, and Lewis said he plans to reach out to them by holding occasional city council meetings on the GSU campus and by also creating a GSU-centered council district.
“If we do that, I don’t think this will occur again,” he said. “We can have six or seven districts, and one of those should include Georgia Southern students — to include the students and let them know their voice will be heard.”
Lewis said the hard-fought campaign was tiring, and not something he’d want to go through again.
“I was trying to work hard and trying to do the right thing for the people,” he said. “I care for everybody — black, white, yellow or green, I love everybody.”
He took away several lessons from the campaign. “It’s a new experience and a good experience, but this will never happen again, I hope,” he said.
Queen said he lost because he didn’t get as many students out to vote as he’d anticipated. He said he plans to run for office again, and to remain active in city politics.
“I’m going to hold each of these individuals to what they said they were going to do,” he said. “They said they were going to be understanding with the students, and I expect them to be that.”
Queen said that the District 2 race was the most civil of all of the three contentious council elections, and that he will remain friends with Lewis.
“Neither one of us really attacked the other one at all,” he said. “I’ll have to go back and look at the numbers and see where everything was.”
Queen didn’t rule out the possibility of asking for a recount, and said that he felt the Southern Pines residence halls at Georgia Southern University should be in his district.
Earlier in the day, Statesboro’s District 2 polling place at the William James Educational Complex got busy quickly as 4 p.m. rolled around.
During the afternoon, several shuttles from both candidates brought voters to the polling place. While challenger Nathan Queen was driving one of the shuttles, incumbent Gary Lewis was on the lawn of the complex, campaigning to the end.
A few people who showed up to vote were turned away because they lived in the wrong district. LaToya Peebles discovered she lived in District 1 when she came out to vote, but still said coming out was significant.
“Voting is very important,” she said.
Regina Jacobs, a GSU junior, said she came to vote for Nathan Queen.
“His name was more advertised, and he’s more for the students of Georgia Southern than anything else,” she said.
Jacobs said she was concerned that Statesboro Citizens for Good Government, a group that launched more than 900 challenges to student voter registrations, was trying to take away students’ right to vote.
“The student body is what Statesboro is run by,” she said. “If you took away all of us, Statesboro wouldn’t function as well as it does.”
Krystal Grant came to vote because she wanted to be heard and make a difference in her community.
“We’re trying to better Statesboro,” she said.
She cast her ballot for Gary Lewis. “He’s been a councilman for quite some time, and I think he’s made a big impact for Statesboro,” she said.
GSU music education junior Nicole Patton said she votes in every election. She voted for Gary Lewis, based on a candidate interview she read.
“I really didn’t have any particular issues I was focused on, I just wanted to pick the candidate that represented me best,” she said.
Willie Mae Robinson said she wanted to participate in the political process. “You don’t have a voice if you don’t vote,” she said.
She said she cast a ballot for Lewis, since she was satisfied with his performance on the city council.