State Rep. Allen Freeman, R-Macon, and Democrat James “Bubber” Epps were locked in a pitched battle for the District 140 seat just after midnight Tuesday, with Epps appearing to have a slight advantage.
With 25 of 29 precincts reporting, Epps led Freeman by less than 1 percent, 9,834 votes to 9,727 votes. Provisional ballots have not been counted, and the incumbent said he was not ready to concede. If the margin of separation remains less than 1 percent, a recount can also be requested.
“I still think there’s a lot of votes out there,” Freeman said, adding that this year there appeared to be more than 650 fewer votes recorded in Bibb County’s Rutland 1 precinct than were cast during the 2004 election. “We didn’t lose that many people in south Bibb. The votes are still out there somewhere.”
Epps could not be reached early Wednesday morning. But Democratic activist Amy Morton, who had volunteered for Epps’ campaign, said it sounded like he was in a strong position.
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“That’s a great victory for us if Epps won that race,” she said.
The race seems to be finishing the way it was run: neck-and-neck.
In his campaign, Epps said Freeman was out of touch with Middle Georgia voters and had become a rubber stamp for the state GOP leadership. Epps said that too much money had been cut from education. He has said he also wants to increase small-business access to cheap health care and that he would be “a serious proponent” of rail service between Atlanta, Macon and Savannah.
Freeman ran on his experience, and said he had helped attract people and industry to the midstate. Projects he said he had worked on, like Kumho Tire or the Academy Sports distribution center in Twiggs County, showed that he could work well with local officials regardless of party affiliation, Freeman argued.
It has not been the nicest of races. The campaign really heated up a few weeks ago, when Freeman at a news conference alleged that Epps had, as Twiggs County Commission chairman some 20 years ago, funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue to his father’s paving company.
Epps denied any impropriety, and the Democratic party in turn accused Freeman of departing the Cherry Blossom Festival under a cloud of suspicion when he suddenly resigned as president in 2004.
Both candidates questioned the accuracy of each other’s direct mail advertising. Epps produced a veteran who said he was unexpectedly and inaccurately quoted in a Freeman mailer, and Freeman claimed that Epps was mischaracterizing his votes in fliers he sent to residents.
House District 147
Republican Oren “Buddy” Harden was beating Democrat Roy C. Gibbs 58 percent to 42 percent Tuesday, or 8,457 votes to 6,105 votes, with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
There was no incumbent in the race. Former Rep. Johnny Floyd had vacated the seat to join the state Department of Transportation board. Both Gibbs and Harden campaigned on the importance of economic development for the district, which includes all of Crisp County plus parts of Houston, Pulaski, Dooly and Worth counties.
Senate District 16
State Sen. Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone, easily dispatched his Democratic challenger, Jerry Brillant, also of Tyrone. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Chance was leading Brillant 49,017 votes to 23,320 votes, or 68 percent to 32 percent.
Running in a fairly conservative district, which includes a piece of Monroe County plus portions of Fayette, Lamar, Pike and Spalding counties, the politically unknown Brillant had tried to portray his incumbent opponent as an Atlanta insider beholden to special interests.
Meanwhile, Chance, a public relations executive, had sought to persuade voters to choose his experience to handle what are expected to be tough economic times ahead.
HOUSE DISTRICT 140
Allen G. Freeman, R, (i) – 9,727
James A. “Bubber” Epps, D, – 9,834
25 of 29 precincts reporting
HOUSE DISTRICT 147
Roy C. Gibbs, D – 6,105
Oren “Buddy” Harden, R – 8,457
27 of 30 precincts reporting
SENATE DISTRICT 16
Ronnie Chance, R, (i) – 49,017
Jerry Brillant, D, – 23,320
63 of 67 precincts reporting