After a close Republican primary contest between financial planner Travis Chance, farmer Toby Conner and lawyer Jennifer Campbell Mock for Seat 2-B on the Bulloch County Board of Commissioners, Chance and Conner will advance to a runoff June 21.
Even that won't decide who will become the next county commissioner from District 2, since the winner will face Democratic candidate Jake Hallman in the Nov. 8 general election. He ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination in this race to succeed retiring longtime Commissioner Walter Gibson.
All other purely local contests on Tuesday's ballots were decided outright. Retired school principal Donna Clifton, as a challenger, won the nonpartisan three-candidate race for the Bulloch County Board of Education seat in District 4 by a commanding margin. Incumbent BOE members Glennera Martin in District 5 and Jay Cook in District 6 and incumbent Bulloch County State Court Judge Joseph L. Cushner all won re-election over individual challengers.
So, the Seat 2-B county commissioner race is the only local one going to a runoff, and only on the Republican ballot in Commission District 2.
In the unofficial vote count Tuesday night, Chance had garnered 2,842 votes, or 37.58% of the total, to Conner's 2,386 votes, or 31.55%, and Mock's 2,334 votes, or 30.86%. More than 50% of the vote total would have been required to win the Republican nomination outright.
"Any time there are more than two candidates in a race, the probability of a runoff is all but a certainty, so I feel that it looks like they did a good job to get their voters out, and we did what we could to get our voters out, and it's all part of the process," Chance said Wednesday.
"Taking care of first responders" such as sheriff's deputies, and continuing the county's growth "at a reasonable and controlled pace," will continue to be cornerstones of Chance's campaign going into the runoff, he said.
"I really feel like that resonated, and I just can't thank the citizens that voted for me enough," Chance said.
In 2018 it was Chance and Gibson who went to a Republican primary runoff, which Gibson won.
This time, Chance received 456 votes more than Conner, while Conner captured 52 more votes than Mock. If District 2's Republican voter turnout remained constant, Conner would need to pick up only 20% of Mock's primary voters to win in the runoff, unless Chance also captures a significant share.
"We're going to stick to our guns here," Conner said Wednesday. "We're going to stick with what we've been running on, talking to people and getting the community and the county more involved with the political things that are going on in the county. We want the people to come out and be heard and to feel like somebody's here to listen for them."
He said he has enjoyed campaigning, meeting "a great bunch of people," many more than he would meet just doing what he does for a living, and feels confident about the runoff.
Mock trailed Conner by less than 1% of the total vote count, but no recount was planned as of Wednesday afternoon.
"As of today at this time, nobody has called or contacted our office regarding a recount," said Bulloch County Election Supervisor Shontay Jones.
Without further comment, she supplied a copy of a section of state election law. Unless an error comes to the attention of an election supervisor, a recount is only required when a margin of 0.5% or less keeps a candidate out of a runoff and that candidate requests a recount within two business days. Based on Tuesday night's unofficial results, Mock trailed by slightly less than 0.7%.
In another three-candidate race, the one for the District 4 seat on the Bulloch County Board of Education, Clifton captured 1,197 votes, or 61% of the district's total. The incumbent board member, April Newkirk, garnered 627 votes, or 32%, and another challenger, Kathy C. Sherrod, received 138 votes, or 7%. Clifton will replace Newkirk on the board for the new four-year term beginning in January.
But District 5 incumbent BOE member Martin won a third four-year term on the school board, with 301 votes, or 55% of the district's total votes cast in the race, to 243 votes, or 45%, for challenger Shontelle Childress.
Martin visited the county election headquarters after the result was known Tuesday night.
"I am just looking forward for our school system to continue to make the progress we have made in the past," she said. "I think we have the opportunity to do even greater things. … We're already above national average, but we want to maintain that and strive for higher success."
Incumbent District 6 BOE member Cook also won a third term. He received 777 votes, or 66.5% of the total cast, to challenger Mary E. Boyer's 392 votes, or 33.5%.
State Court result
In the one purely local race voted on countywide, Cushner held onto the office of State Court judge to which he was appointed in March 2020. Cushner received 7,436 votes, or 68.1% of the total, to challenger Michael J. Classens' 3,484 votes, or 31.9%.
"I'm happy with the result and happy to have the opportunity to serve four more years. …," Cushner said Wednesday.
"There were some enjoyable times in the campaign," he added. "I got to spend a lot of time with our family, meeting new people, and those were the fun parts. I'm glad to have had the opportunity."
From the Democratic, Republican and nonpartisan ballots combined, Bulloch County's total participating voter count was 11,940. That amounted to 27% of the county's 44,100 currently registered, active voters. In the previous primary with a race for governor on the ballot, in May 2018, Bulloch County's turnout was only 20%.
Also in the election concluded Tuesday, Elizabeth Y. Williams was elected unopposed to the Board of Education from District 2, and so in January will succeed in the district seat retiring BOE member Mike Sparks, who now serves as chair by choice of the other members.
For County Commissioner Seat 1-B, challenger Preston Tutt was unopposed in the Republican primary, and incumbent Commissioner Anthony Simmons was unopposed in the Democratic primary. They will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.
Seat 2-D Commissioner Timmy Rushing was unopposed on the Republican ballot and remains unopposed for re-election in November.
Senator & governor
In the U.S. Senate race on the Republican ballot, 6,708 Bulloch residents, or 74.7%. voted for Herschel Walker, while 1,627 local votes, or 18.1%, went to Gary Black. Four other candidates each received less than 2.1% of the local votes.
Walker, who received more than 68.2 % of Republican votes statewide, will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock in the Nov. 8 general election. On the Democratic ballot, Warnock received 2,454 Bulloch County votes, or 95.8%, to 108 votes, or 4.2%, for Tamara Johnson-Shealey.
In the governor's race on the Republican ballot, 6,728 votes, or 73.9% of Bulloch's total, went to incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, while former Sen. David Perdue was second, with 1,943 local votes, or 21.35%. Kemp, who took 73.7% statewide, will face Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams in November. She was unopposed on her party's primary ballot.
The Democratic runoff ballot will feature some state contests.
The local numbers reported may be subject to small changes until Friday evening as Bulloch County election officials evaluate some provisional ballots, fewer than 50, Jones said.