Shaw Blackmon and Larry Walker III will advance to a runoff in a special election to represent part of Houston County at the state Capitol in Atlanta.
Blackmon received 1,735 votes, 43.8 percent, to Walker’s 1,397, 35.3 percent, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.
Former Houston County District Attorney Kelly Burke is out of the running, finishing third with 828 votes, 20.9 percent.
It takes at least 50 percent of the vote to win. The runoff will be held Aug. 11. All three men are Republicans, but the election is nonpartisan and open to all registered voters. House District 146 covers a piece of Houston County roughly from Perry to part of Warner Robins and Bonaire.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Blackmon, 42, put cutting red tape near the top of his legislative plan.
“I think we had a good night,” said Blackmon, just after the results were published. “This was a good, clean, positive race that we all ran.”
Walker, 50, said jobs should be at the top of the Georgia Legislature’s agenda.
On Tuesday night, Walker said, “We’re still enthused, we felt pretty sure it would end up in a runoff ... [we] had three reputable candidates.”
Both men also said they would put a high priority on supporting Robins Air Force Base’s missions.
Burke, 56, said Tuesday night that he appreciates everyone who took the time to vote, no matter how they cast their vote.
The former prosecutor campaigned against what he called the “status quo” Republican Party and a gas tax rise the Legislature passed this year.
The winner will complete the roughly 15 months remaining in the term of former House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire. O’Neal retired from the Legislature this year to take a judgeship at the Georgia Tax Tribunal.
Blackmon raised nearly $90,000 for the election, Walker reported more than $77,000 in campaign cash, and Burke reported over $18,000.
About 11.6 percent of the district’s voters cast a ballot.
The eventual winner will head to a state legislature dominated by the GOP. However, party members have skirmished among themselves over issues including that gas tax rise and a failed measure that would have allowed licensed concealed weapons on college campuses.
When the Legislature assembles in January, it will debate issues including medical marijuana and driver’s licenses for migrants who have entered the U.S. illegally.