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North voters, turnout swung runoff

Support slipped for incumbents

POSTED: August 26, 2012 5:30 p.m.
 

North Forsyth’s turnout and confidence in the incumbent candidates’ support appear to have been key factors in Tuesday’s Republican runoff races.

Forsyth Election Supervisor Barbara Luth said more voters on the county’s north end took part in the election because they had more at stake.

“The north had the [9th District] U.S. congressman to vote for plus a [county] commissioner, so there were probably more people who came out to vote for those races than the southern part of the county,” she said.

That did not appear to help Sheriff Ted Paxton, whose bid for a fourth term came up short by 338 votes.

Paxton lost six of the eight districts that voted in the District 4 county commission runoff to challenger Duane Piper. He prevailed narrowly in the two others — Coal Mountain, by five votes, and Pleasant Grove, by 11 votes.

However, Paxton fared well in south Forsyth precincts such as Old Atlanta, Johns Creek, Windermere, Vickery and Polo.

Luth said south Forsyth typically has a strong presence at the polls.

During the July 31 election, Paxton drew nearly 48 percent of the vote. He needed 50 plus one to avoid a runoff.

But that was when more than 27,500 voters took part. Of those, nearly 13,100 voted for Paxton and more than 7,500 voted for Piper, a former longtime employee of the agency who resigned to run for sheriff.

For last week’s runoff, 13,589 people voted in the sheriff’s race — 6,629 for Paxton and 6,967 for Piper.

Luth said it’s been her experience that “people don’t get out” for runoffs.

“People think that the incumbent will probably come out OK, so they don’t go out and vote for him,” she said. “A lot of people feel, especially if they did well in the primary … that they’ll do it again.

“And people don’t come out and vote, and then you have a light percentage of voters making the decision on that.”

Piper, who does not face opposition in November and will take office in January, has credited his campaign’s determination for the victorious three-week turnaround.

“We worked hard,” he said. “We held, I don’t even know the number, but a whole lot of community meetings in the subdivisions and different places in the community and they understood what I was saying.”

Geography wasn’t an issue in the other countywide runoff contest. Mary Beth Pais won with nearly 58 percent of the vote over opponent Harold Bennett.

Pais carried all 23 of the county’s precincts with the exception of Coal Mountain and Keith Bridge.

“She took most of them with a wide margin,” Luth said. “To do that overall, you know you have the whole county going for you.

“That kind of tells her that they were all out for her.”

Pais will succeed Lauren McDonald, who did not seek a fourth term and instead ran unsuccessfully for sheriff, in January.

Within District 4, Commissioner-elect Cindy J. Mills had similar fortune, claiming nearly two-thirds of the vote against incumbent Patrick Bell, who was seeking a second four-year term.

Mills received nearly 66 percent of the vote, or 2,508 votes, to Bell’s 34 percent, or 1,319 votes.

Bell claimed one of the eight precincts in his district — and not by much.

Browns Bridge, the district he carried, had just 26 registered voters eligible to take part. Nine did, and six of them picked Bell over Mills.

It wasn’t close in the other seven precincts.

In the two races featuring incumbents, both fell. Luth said it’s difficult to determine why.

“[Voters] could be ready for a change,” she said. “But it’s hard to tell in a runoff, it really is.”

 

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