Special elections don’t produce any winners – as of yet

[private]Of the three special elections held in Metro Atlanta Tuesday, none of them produced an outright winner and they all appear destined to be decided by runoffs on July 14.

The one possible exception was in Forsyth County, where Sheri Gilligan tallied 49.97 percent of the ballots in the House District 24 election – a mere two votes short of the total that would have given her a 50 percent plus one majority and resulted in her election.

According to the Forsyth County News, “four provisional ballots still must be counted Friday, when the results will be finalized.”

If those four provisional ballots were all declared to be valid and if all four of them were cast for Gilligan, she would have just enough votes to win the election outright. Otherwise, she will face attorney David Van Sant in the runoff.

Both of the candidates have interesting aspects to their candidacies.

Gilligan, who was known as Sheri Smallwood when she attended Forsyth County High School, says on her campaign website that she once worked for the CIA:

Gilligan served our nation in the United States Navy Reserves. Her career path led her to work for the CIA as an intelligence analyst and finally home to Forsyth County to teach at Lanier Tech. Her work with the Central Intelligence Agency helped protect us from national threats. Now Sheri Gilligan wants to protect our area from an overreaching government.

If Gilligan wins, she would be one of the first persons with a CIA background to hold elective office in Georgia since former congressman Bob Barr, who last served in 2002.

Van Sant is a personal injury lawyer whose website promises, “I will fight to obtain the greatest possible compensation for your injuries.”

He is also the favorite candidate of Red State blogger Erick Erickson, who endorsed Van Sant over another attorney in the race, Ethan Underwood, who finished third on Tuesday.

Erickson accused Underwood of being a “kept man” of the House leadership because he was endorsed by the outgoing legislator, Mark Hamilton. Erickson also charged: “The people that killed the religious liberty legislation and gave us the billion dollar tax increase are desperate to get Ethan Underwood in the State House.”

Ironically, Underwood was endorsed by state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) – the sponsor of the religious freedom bill whose killing was cited by Erickson as a reason to vote against Underwood.

“We need reinforcements at the Capitol to help us move conservative initiatives like Religious Freedom legislation forward,” McKoon said in his endorsement. “I know Ethan will be a happy warrior for the conservative cause under the Gold Dome.”

He called it

One person who projected the turnout and the possible winner in that Forsyth County race with uncanny accuracy was David Beaudoin, who runs a website that analyzes local and special elections nationwide.

Beaudoin bases his analysis on the number of unique campaign contributions a candidate receives from within the election district and the surrounding county.

“In a purely local campaign, it’s not enough to establish name recognition or even attract agreement with policy positions,” he blogged prior to the election. “In order to win, a candidate must get voters to actually make the effort to vote for them.”

He added: “It stands to reason that those who do donate [to a candidate] are likely to be those strong supporters of a candidate who can potentially drive turnout.”

Beaudoin analyzed the campaign disclosure reports and counted the number of “unique contributions” of $100 or more that each candidate received from addresses located in House District 24 or outside the district but still within Forsyth County. “I disregarded multiple contributions from either the same person or the same address,” he said.

Gilligan received the highest number of these “unique” local contributions: 15. She finished first in the balloting.

Will Kremer, the candidate with the smallest number of unique local contributions (zero), finished last in the balloting.

“Sheri Gilligan raised just the third-most amount [of total dollars in contributions], but the addresses for all of her contributors are within Forsyth County,” Beaudoin wrote prior to election day. “Furthermore, she has the most number of campaign donors from within the district itself. This would seem to be significant in what figures to be such a low-turnout election.”

Beaudoin also projected that the turnout in the special election would be “about 3,500.” According to the secretary of state’s website, there were 3,572 ballots cast on Tuesday, which is very close to that projection.

[Update: Beaudoin told us in an email that he lives in New Jersey, is a “passionate follower of government and elections,” and works as a CPA with a degree in accounting from the University of Delaware: “I held various positions in the University of Delaware’s student government then with now-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.”]

DeKalb Commission race

Mereda Davis Johnson, a former judge who’s the wife of U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, finished significantly ahead of the field in the special election for a DeKalb County Commission seat, but not nearly enough to win outright.

In a race with 10 candidates splitting the vote, Johnson attracted 27.2 percent of the vote (1,239). She faces a runoff with retired MARTA executive George Turner, who had 15.9 percent of the vote (726).

Hank Johnson drew some media attention a few days prior to the election by introducing a bill in Congress that would make it illegal to carry firearms in all areas of an airport, not just the areas secured by TSA checkpoints. It is not known what impact, if any, that coverage may have had on the election vote.

No more Brooks in the House

In Atlanta’s House District 55, we know for sure that there will no longer be someone named “Tyrone Brooks” representing the district in the legislature.

Tyrone Brooks Sr. occupied that House seat for 35 years before resigning several weeks ago in conjunction with pleading guilty to a federal fraud charge.

Tyrone Brooks Jr. promptly qualified for the special election to replace his father and seemed to be the early favorite. But Brooks’ eligibility was challenged on the grounds that he had not legally resided in the district long enough, and he was knocked out of the race on the day prior to the election.

The runoff in this House election will be between Shelitha Robertson, an attorney who tallied 851 votes (30.8 percent), and Marie Metze, a retired educator who had 841 votes (30.4 percent).

© 2015 by The Georgia Report


Tags: Dave Beaudoin , David Van Sant , DeKalb County Commission , George Turner , Georgia House , Marie Metze , Mereda Johnson , Shelitha Robertson , Sheri Gilligan , special elections