Macon 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 about 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.
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“Five hundred votes. That’s what I’m calling it,” Clay Murphey, Reichert’s interim director of external affairs, 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.
Among his strongest showings were the Howard precincts in the north and northwest parts of the city, where he took more than 90 percent of the vote, and Vineville 6, where he drew 94 percent of the ballots cast.
He said he had sought new support since the primary, and he found it. Former rival Paul Bronson, who took 5 percent of the primary vote, was at Reichert’s victory party wearing an “I’m a Georgia voter” sticker and a Reichert campaign sticker.
Bronson said he was glad to back Reichert this time around.
“He’s brought stability to Macon,” Bronson said.
Bronson, 26, said he hasn’t discussed a future role for himself with Reichert, but he does hope to serve as the “voice of youth” along with other political newcomers like Juawn Jackson.
Jackson, an 18-year-old senior at Westside High School, said he has worked as one of Reichert’s junior campaign advisers and learned a lot. He wants to earn a political science degree and spend his life in public service, but for now he wants to work along with the administration as “a voice for the voiceless,” he said.
David Cousino, who ran as a Republican against Reichert four years ago and plans to oppose him in the Nov. 8 general election as an independent write-in, was also at Reichert’s party. Tuesday night, Cousino was “neutral,” but still intends to run in the fall, he said.
Ellis, who served two terms as mayor just prior to Reichert, was not reached for comment after final results came in. Spokeswoman Teresa Southern said late Tuesday night that the campaign would make no statement then, but would release one Wednesday morning.
Speaking to supporters after the final votes rolled in, Ellis thanked them for their support and urged them to keep reminding Reichert that 49 percent of the city’s voters opposed him. He also congratulated Reichert on his win.
Among the areas where Ellis did best were Godfrey and East Macon precincts. In Godfrey 3, for example, he took 88 percent of the vote, and in East Macon 1, he captured 86 of the vote.
After the July 19 primary, Ellis said he would concentrate on a “ground war” to produce a heavy turnout Tuesday. He also made overtures to Bronson and July’s third-place finisher, former state Sen. Robert Brown, seeking their backing.
Reichert said his next task will be working to close the public rifts inevitably caused by elections, reiterating his campaign theme of bringing all segments of the community together.
“We’re going to start tomorrow with the healing process,” he said Tuesday night.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.