For The Record

Two Georgia lawmaker jobs still up for grabs after special elections

By: - June 15, 2021 10:40 pm

Georgia voters cast ballots Tuesday in a special election to fill legislative seats. It was the first chance for voters to cast ballots under Georgia’s new election rules. wildpixel/iStock Getty Images

A special election that will decide who represents a portion of Cobb County at the state House will go to a July runoff.

Republican Devan Seabaugh, who was the top vote-getter Tuesday, fell short of the 50% threshold he needed to avoid a runoff. He ended the night with 47% of the vote in a five-way contest.

The runner-up, Democrat Priscilla G. Smith, won nearly 25% of the vote. Seabaugh and Smith will each other again in a July 13 runoff.

The outcome of the election will name the successor to state Rep. Bert Reeves, a Marietta Republican who stepped down in April and accepted a job with Georgia Tech University.

The jungle primary-style special election was a mostly sleepy affair leading up to Tuesday, with fewer than 3,000 voters casting a ballot ahead of the election.

Still, the special election drew attention for its potential to offer a preview of next year’s election when far more is at stake.

Even though Cobb County has been shifting leftward in recent elections, Reeves won reelection last year with 56% of the vote in what is considered a more conservative area of the county.

And when all the votes were tallied Tuesday, Republican voters outnumbered Democratic voters 4,176 to 2,856.

Seabaugh, an executive at Metro Atlanta Ambulance, bested former Kennesaw City Councilman David Blinkhorn among Republican-leaning voters.

Smith, who ran as a progressive Democrat, edged out moderate Democrat Sam Hensley Jr., a Marietta attorney and son of Sam Hensley Sr., who served in both the state House and Senate. Smith lost to Reeves last year, walking away then with nearly 44% of the vote. She is an educator and artist known for her impersonation of President Donald Trump.

Chris Neill, the Libertarian candidate, won less than 1% of the vote Tuesday.

The race was among the first since parts of the state’s controversial new voting law were signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in March. The rest of the law’s provisions will not take effect until July 1, just in time for the runoff.

In another special state House election held Tuesday, two Republicans – Leesa Hagan and Wally Sapp – were also headed for a runoff. The winner there will fill the south Georgia seat vacated by state Rep. Greg Morris, a Vidalia Republican.

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.

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