Mayor Robert Reichert eked out victory Tuesday night, winning a seesaw fight for a second term against former Mayor C. Jack Ellis.
Unofficial returns gave Reichert 10,307 votes to 9,770 for Ellis, a difference of more than 500 votes out of more than 20,000 cast.
Ellis took an early lead as returns from the first few city precincts came in. Reichert pulled ahead by a few hundred votes as one-third of the totals arrived. Then Ellis surged back into the lead at the two-thirds mark before Reichert pulled ahead for good about 9:35 p.m.
Reichert’s supporters in downtown Macon’s Armory Ballroom watched tensely as he came within four votes of Ellis, with five precincts still out.
“Five hundred votes. That’s what I’m calling it,” Clay Murphey, Reichert’s interim spokesman, said several minutes before the final precinct numbers came in. He and several other city staff, along with City Council members including Tom Ellington and Larry Schlesinger, watched the results together.
Then the last few vote totals came in — including two from Vineville precincts.
“That’s the neighborhood I grew up in,” Reichert said.
In the end, of the 20,077 votes cast in the race — more than in the four-way July 19 primary that set up Tuesday’s runoff — Reichert had the lead by 537 votes.
He credited his win to “a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” working the phones and sending postcards.
“We’re just delighted that it worked out the way it did,” Reichert said, in the midst of accepting hugs from a stream of well-wishers.