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Local Election Results: Girtz soars to second term; congressional race goes to runoff

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Photo: Julianne Akers
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Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz celebrates a win in downtown Athens on Tuesday night.

At 10 p.m., the results started pouring in for Clarke County precincts, followed by enthusiasm from a mostly Democratic leaning crowd in downtown Athens.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, incumbent Mayor Kelly Girtz sailed to a second term in office, fending off five challengers. The second-place finisher, Mara Zuniga, picked up just under 25% of votes cast. By 11 p.m., the Girtz campaign had called the race with 59% of the vote at just over 90% of precincts reporting. Clarke County School District retiree Pearl Hall had approximately five percent, while Mykeisha Ross got just under five percent. Physician and property owner Fred Moorman got three percent, narrowly edging out Bennie Coleman III, who withdrew from the race in recent weeks.

“Teamwork is not done alone, and campaigns are also not done,” Girtz said during his victory speech. “What we are doing here, at its core, is setting up a strong foundation, an unassailable foundation, to support human beings in better lives. The only way we’re going to make it to the next chapter … is to engage, and discuss, and dialogue with one another,” Girtz told supporters, who applauded the mayor and chanted "Four more years!"

Commission races: Davenport on track for a second term, open District 5 seat headed to runoff

Other candidates supported by the Democratic party couldn’t match Girtz's performance, like Matt Pulver in District 5, where three candidates faced off. Votes continue to be counted, but that race is headed for a runoff, with former Clarke County School District administrator Dexter Fisher hovering just under the 50 percent threshold. Pulver, came in a distant second with 27 percent, just ahead of former ACC Commissioner Jared Bailey. Fisher and Pulver are set to face off in a runoff next month.

In District 1, incumbent Commissioner Patrick Davenport appeared to be on track for a big win over educator Audrey Hughes. With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Davenport was ahead by nearly 600 votes, a comfortable margin of about 17 percent.

“I didn’t knock on as many doors as my opponent … but thanks to the Democratic party, thanks to the great people of Athens-Clarke County, y'all got to stick with me for four more years,” Davenport said to attendees.

In an open seat in District 7, John Culpepper won, defeating Allen Jones. District 9 Commissioner Ovita Thornton had no opposition.

Considering the results, District 6 Commission Jesse Houle was enthusiastic about the future of the mayor and commission.

“We can't win everything, but I do believe that all the folks that we've supported have run campaigns that talked about things and pushed for issues and functioned in ways that would not have happened, had they not run,” Houle said. “And that has a transformative ripple effect.”

Clarke Board of Education: Evans edges out Johnson, Denson rolls to victory

In Board of Education races, Heidi Hensley held a 10 point lead over James Alexander in District 1, while ACC Commissioner Tim Denson who was drawn out of his commission district handily won the open 5th District seat. In District 9, Mark Evans narrowly edged out Elder Johnson IV by just 27 votes. Linda Davis in District 3 and Lakeisha Gantt in District 7 won re-election without opposition.

T-SPLOST 2023, a continuation of a one percent sales tax to fund transportation improvements, passed overwhelmingly with the support of about two-thirds of ACC voters.

Statewide races: How Athens voted

Republican Senate nominee Hershel Walker romped to victory across Georgia with more than two-thirds of the vote. However, the former UGA football hero underperformed his statewide percentage in Athens-Clarke County, picking up just 53 percent of the county's GOP voters. In neighboring Oconee County, Walker scored 58 percent of the county's Republican votes. Incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp leveraged his Athens roots to cruise to over 80 percent of the vote in both Clarke and Oconee races.

Incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger won Athens easily with 57 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. Trump-endorsed challenger Jody Hice, who represents a large part of Athens in the US House picked up some 38 percent of the vote. Hice narrowly beat Raffensperger in Oconee.

10th District Congressional race still undecided

The race for Hice's seat in the US House remains unsettled, with both the Democratic and Republican nominations going to a runoff. On the Democratic side, Tabitha Johnson-Green could face either Jessica Fore or Phyllis Hatcher as votes continue to be counted. On the GOP side, Mike Collins and Vernon Jones will face off in the runoff.

Alexia Ridley joined WUGA as Television and Radio News Anchor and Reporter in 2013. When WUGA TV concluded operations, she became the primary Reporter for WUGA Radio. Alexia came to Athens from Macon where she served as the News Director and show host for WGXA TV. She's a career journalist and Savannah native hailing from the University of Michigan. However, Alexia considers herself an honorary UGA DAWG!
Martin Matheny was promoted to Program Director and Content Strategist on July 1, 2022. He has served as the Executive Producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters', and he covers local government for WUGA News. He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on WUGA at 10pm. 'Night Music' can also be heard statewide on the GPB Classical stream Mondays and Tuesdays at 8pm. As part of 'Athens News Matters' Martin works with student interns to help cultivate the next generation of Public Media rock stars! In his spare time Martin is an amateur book binder and freelance musician who frequently performs with Big Band Athens playing bass trombone. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.