Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms, facing two formidable opponents, won re-election without a runoff Tuesday.
With all precincts, absentee and early votes counted, Toms held 53 percent of the vote, with former Mayor Chuck Shaheen in second with 33 percent and former Public Works director Joe Musselwhite with 14 percent. The total vote count was 3,588 for Toms, 2,252 for Shaheen and 926 for Musselwhite.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Toms said after the final votes were in. “What a great night.”
Other incumbent mayors across the midstate were not so fortunate. At least three of them— in Milledgeville, Roberta and Gordon — were defeated, although the margin of victory in Milledgeville was just six votes, almost certainly prompting a recount.
Elsewhere, voters approved education sales tax initiatives in Twiggs and Monroe county, while a proposed extra penny of sales tax on the dollar for transportation projects in Putnam also passed.
Toms, a retired Warner Robins firefighter, won the mayor’s job in 2013 in a race against five candidates, including Musselwhite.
“It’s times like this that you learn what surreal means, because it doesn’t feel like this is real,” Toms told cheering supporters Tuesday night.
Shaheen had served as mayor from 2010 to 2014, but he stepped down to run for the at-large City Council Post 1, which he won.
“It was just an honor to serve the Lord for the last 8 years through city government,” Shaheen said. “I’ve enjoyed every day of it. It’s been a great character builder. I have no animosity against anybody.”
The race for the council seat he vacated will go to a runoff. Political newcomer Eric Langston was the top vote-getter with 2,297 votes, or 36 percent, followed by former Councilman Daron Lee, with 2,144, or 34 percent.
Jim Taylor had 1,301 votes, 20 percent, and Jeffery Walker had 564 votes, or 9 percent.
The runoff is Dec. 5. Langston is a Robins Air Force Base employee.
“We worked very hard,” Langston said. “Our campaign worked really hard just as the other campaigns did. It took a lot of effort and boots on the ground.”
Lee was the Post 5 councilman, but he left that seat in 2013 to run for mayor and narrowly missed making a runoff in that race. He said he was happy that he made the runoff for the citywide council seat.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out in the trenches and pushing on through to victory,” Lee said.
Post 3 Councilman Keith Lauritsen easily won re-election to his district seat, with 1,239 votes to 539 for Terri Murray.
“I’m relieved,” Lauritsen said. “You just never know. I’m looking forward to getting some things done over the next four years.”
The early votes were the first to be counted, and Toms jumped out to an immediate lead with 1,589 votes to 981 for Shaheen and 422 for Musselwhite.
Shaheen won just one precinct, the Post 5 recreation department, with 279 votes to 246 for Toms and 71 for Musselwhite.
Toms said most people were expecting a runoff, but he was hoping to avoid one.
“We are surprised but not completely shocked,” he said.
The total turnout was only 17 percent, less than the 20 percent that the last mayoral election drew.