Republican U.S. Rep. Rick Allen held onto Georgia’s 12th Congressional District seat with roughly 59 percent of the district’s votes to 41 percent for the Democratic challenger, the Rev. Francys Johnson.
These percentage totals and other vote counts reported here were as of midnight, with 90 percent of the precincts reporting.
Allen, a construction company founder from Augusta, has represented the district for four years so far and has now secured a third two-year term. Johnson, the Statesboro-based attorney, Baptist minister and former NAACP Georgia State Conference president, gave Allen a serious challenge but carried only one of the district’s 19 counties.
“We just ran a heck of a race,” Allen said in a phone interview after the polls had closed. “We did everything. People were generous. We raised record amounts of funds to get our message out for direct voter contact, television, all the things you have to do to make sure you get your message out, which is a winning message. Voters need to know the facts, and then they make good decisions.”
A strong economy, after the national Republican leadership “worked very, very hard to turn this thing around” helped, and this is showing up in job growth in the district, Allen said. He expressed hope that Republicans would keep their majority in Congress and be able to continue policies he says are succeeding.
After campaigning throughout the district in recent weeks, going “to every county multiple times,” he said, Allen spent much of Tuesday still campaigning, but close to his home. He voted around 10 a.m. and later helped wave campaign signs during the afternoon commute “at the two busiest intersections in the northern part of the district” meaning Augusta-Richmond County and part of Columbia County.
“Robin and I are so honored that the people of Georgia’s 12th District have once again elected me, a small businessman from Augusta, to represent them in Washington,” Allen said in an emailed statement after the results were certain. “We are so humbled and grateful for their trust.”
‘A clear choice’
Ironically, Richmond County was the one county where Johnson received a majority of the votes, with 65.8 percent of the total there.
In Bulloch County, a few more than 1,000 paper absentee ballots had not been officially counted as of midnight. Results from the scanned ballots were loaded on the wrong memory card, said Bulloch County Election Supervisor Patricia Lanier Jones. But with the rest of the county’s ballots electronically tallied, Allen had 14,885 votes, or 63.9 percent of Bulloch’s total, to Johnson’s 8,402, or 36 percent. There were 20 write-ins.
Johnson, interviewed at 5 p.m. Tuesday while the polls were still open, asserted that if he lost he would still have accomplished something important.
“We gave the voters a clear choice in this election, and the fact of the matter is I know for certain that Rick Allen will never take the 12th District for granted again, and none of them should take it for granted. These offices don’t belong to the rich and powerful,” Johnson said. “They belong to the people.”
At that time he held out hope but acknowledged that the odds were stacked against his winning.
“The fact of the matter is, many people said this was a district that was too badly gerrymandered for there to be a race, that it was fixed, it was rigged,” Johnson said. “It was done so by Republicans in the General Assembly who allowed Rick Allen to pick his voters rather than the voters getting a chance to pick Rick Allen.”
Johnson said that if Allen won it would be “a hollow victory” because of the way the district was drawn to favor Republicans and because Allen had “been ignoring his constituents for four years, being silent about the worst atrocities of this (the Trump) administration.”
Earlier Monday, Johnson had visited the graves in Augusta of the Rev. Charles T. Walker, founding pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church, and school founder and NAACP pioneer Lucy Craft Laney. He had also stopped with supporters in Millen and Waynesboro before returning to his law office in downtown Statesboro to monitor the election results.
But Johnson had ended his formal campaign Monday night in Sylvania, his original hometown, with a fish fry for supporters, after visits to farther-flung parts of the district, including shared appearances with Stacey Abrams, the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor.
Meanwhile, John Barrow, the Democrat who previously represented the 12th District in the U.S. House for 10 years, was trying to become Georgia’s next secretary of state. In the statewide count, with 91 percent of precincts reporting as of midnight, Barrow, an attorney who has homes in Athens and Atlanta, held 48 percent of the votes to 49.8 percent for the Republican candidate, Brad Raffensperger, a state representative and engineering firm owner from Johns Creek. The remaining 2.2 percent went to Libertarian candidate Smythe Duval.
If neither Raffensperger nor Barrow came through the night with more than 50 percent of the votes, they will go to a Dec. 4 runoff.
From Bulloch County voters, Raffensperger received 13,184 votes while Barrow got 9,650, again with those 1,000-plus absentees remaining to be tallied.
After weathering earlier changes to the 12th District’s lines by the Republican-controlled state Legislature, Barrow had lost the congressional seat to Allen in the 2014 election.
The secretary of state race was one of those that interested Reid Derr, Ph.D., chair of the Bulloch County Republican Party.
“Mr. Barrow of course was our congressman, a very gifted politician, and he’s facing another very competent engineer and legislator, so I’m curious as to how that’s going to turn out,” Derr had said Monday evening.
Given the congressional race with a hometown candidate and a governor’s race drawing national attention, voter turnout in Bulloch County approached 60 percent, an unusual level for nonpresidential election. Turnout here was in 44 percent when outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal was first elected in 2010 and 43 percent when he was re-elected in 2014.
But Bulloch County’s peak turnout for elections in recent memory was 73.5 percent in fall 2016, when current President Donald Trump was elected and received majority local support.