For The Record

Two Georgia special election runoffs deliver two GOP Statehouse seats

By: - July 13, 2021 11:04 pm

Voters settled a pair of runoffs Tuesday to send two new state lawmakers to the Gold Dome. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Cobb County voters overwhelmingly backed Republican Devan Seabaugh in a runoff Tuesday that was seen as a prelude to next year’s high-stakes elections.

The race to replace Marietta Republican state Rep. Bert Reeves was one of two state House contests settled Tuesday, making the pair of special elections the first held since Georgia’s controversial election law fully took effect. The other election centered on a south Georgia district.

The seats were expected to stay in GOP hands, but the Cobb County vacancy in particular attracted the attention of groups like Democrat Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight and Republican Kelly Loeffler’s Greater Georgia, which both rallied voters to the polls.

The runoff saw slightly higher turnout, with about 1,800 more voters turning out in the two-way contest than did for last month’s five-candidate jungle-style primary. All told, 8,900 people cast a ballot in the runoff.

Seabaugh, an executive at Metro Atlanta Ambulance, emerged the victor with about 63% of the vote, according to unofficial results. The Marietta Republican entered Tuesday’s runoff after falling short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff last month, walking away then with 47% of the vote.

Priscilla Smith, who ran as a progressive, ended the night Tuesday with 37% of the vote. The Kennesaw Democrat is an educator and artist known for her impersonation of President Donald Trump. For comparison, Smith garnered 44% of the vote just last fall when she challenged Reeves, who won with 56%.

Seabaugh had raised nearly $130,000 as of his last filing a few days ago. Smith reported about $72,000.

Republicans quickly celebrated the win Tuesday night while continuing to decry Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All Star game out of Georgia in protest of the state’s GOP election law. The game, originally set for Truist Park in Cobb County, was being played in Colorado as the votes were tallied Tuesday night.

Voters in south Georgia also settled a special election to replace state Rep. Greg Morris, a Vidalia Republican.

In this race, the choice was between two Republicans. Leesa Hagan, a Lyons small business consultant who had the backing of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, appeared to eke out a win Tuesday night with nearly 52% of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Hagan raised about $72,000, about half of which she loaned herself. She beat Wally Sapp, with a little over 6,000 people turning out to vote and about 200 votes separating the candidates. Sapp, a Baxley businessman, raised about $25,000.

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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.