Telfair County tallies a rare runoff tie

Second runoff needed to fill commission seat

jgaines@macon.comApril 18, 2014 

Tuesday’s runoff election for a county commission seat in Telfair County was supposed to settle things. It didn’t.

It will take a third round of voting to settle the race for the empty commission post after a rare electoral outcome on Tuesday: a tie.

It all started when incumbent Commissioner Troy Giddens resigned from the District 3 seat, sparking a four-way race March 18 to fill out his term. An April 15 runoff narrowed the race to Pat Ray and Neil Vaughn, both Democrats.

“She got 198 votes, and he got 197 votes, and there was one provisional -- and it counted, and that made it 198 each,” Telfair County Probate Judge Dianne Walker, who is in charge of elections, said Friday. “Now we’ll have a runoff for the runoff. It will be May 13.”

Jared Thomas, spokesman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, said the situation is indeed rare.

“This has not happened that we have recorded since the Kemp administration started” in January 2010, he said.

Walker and the candidates said the state was even more emphatic to them.

“The state told us it had been over 50 years since they’d had a case like it,” Walker said. “They may never have had a case like that. We’ve had a time finding out what to do.”

All four people running for Giddens’ former seat were first-time candidates, but the novel situation has drawn interest from many more people than just those directly involved in the county about 90 miles south of Macon, Ray said.

“Everybody is just in awe,” she said. “Everybody you meet says, ‘Is it true? It really happened?’ It’s been the talk of the county, to be sure.”

Vaughn said uncertainty about the outcome lasted until Thursday morning. Tuesday night’s total for him stood at 197, the Board of Registrars met Wednesday to consider the provisional ballot. Once its validity was accepted, the ballot was opened in front of both candidates Thursday, he said.

“It was a very nervous week,” Vaughn said.

Now both candidates face another month of campaigning.

“We’re going to try to change our strategy a little bit,” Ray said. Not all that many people even knew about Tuesday’s runoff, she said, so her main effort will be to make voters aware of the continuing race and to get out the vote.

Vaughn agreed that the task now is generating awareness and continued interest in the race.

“The main thing I’m going to do is try to get out and see more people,” he said. “That’s really about the only thing to do.”

Probate Court has many more tasks than just elections to handle, and with a statewide primary scheduled May 20, organizing the new runoff will be “a mess,” Walker said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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