In a gray suit and navy tie, 81-year-old Ed DeFore ambled into Bibb County election headquarters on what he hoped would be the last night of his life as a candidate.
He found a chair and plunked down in it, strategically so, with his back to the projection-screen vote tallies that everyone seemed glued to.
DeFore said he doesn’t sweat votes and their slow crawl to tabulation. Never has. In office since he was elected to Macon City Council in 1971, he has outlasted all comers for half his life.
But Tuesday night’s race was a different political creature, one that incorporated a region comprised of the city’s and the county’s western reaches. For the first time, Macon and Bibb were marrying their governments. In the County Commission District 6 race, DeFore was pitted against three other contenders.
When the night was done, after a last-minute flurry of returns, DeFore would be faced with one more challenger.
Adah Roberts, the city’s former finance officer, forced DeFore into a runoff.
DeFore’s 2,017 votes led the four-way race. Roberts received 1,063, Robert Abbott scored 1,000 and Chhor Chav drew 242.
“One more mile to go,” DeFore said when a reporter called him at home with the results, which were still unofficial at the time. “I’ll have to work harder. With the consolidated government we have coming, we’re gonna need my experience. ... I’ll keep plugging hard.”
Roberts, 62, had already given her concession speech and sent her staff home.
Shortly before midnight after the final results came in, she said by phone that she had told her friends and supporters, “Thank you, we tried.”
“I’ve got to call my committee that’s been behind me,” Roberts said. “They don’t know this.”
She now turns to mid-October and a sure-to-be-tight runoff with the stalwart DeFore.
From Tuesday’s tally, she said, “It looks like they prefer Ed DeFore, but we’ll see.”
Roberts said her accounting and financial background make her the better choice.
“I would think the kind of service I can offer the community is just invaluable. ... There’s so much in a position like this that hinges on finances,” she said, still elated by Tuesday’s 11th-hour developments.
Earlier in the evening, as results crept in, DeFore reflected on his four decades in office.
“I feel like I’m 65,” he said, “but it’s my last time running.”
Meanwhile, Pat, his wife of 63 years, sat across the room at election headquarters watching votes trickle in on the projection screen.
Not once over the years has she considered not voting for her husband.
But, Pat DeFore said, “I have on occasion told him, ‘If I was one of your constituents you would be listening to me.’ Then I remind him, ‘I am one of your constituents.’”