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Laura Semanson wins District 5 Commissioner runoff
Hawkins-Semanson FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

Republican primary runoff results for County Commission District 5:

* Justin T. Hawkins — 42.32 percent, 1,152 votes
* Laura Semanson — 57.68 percent, 1,570 votes

** Source: Secretary of State Brian Kemp website

EAST FORSYTH – Residents of east Forsyth surrounding Lake Lanier appear to have decided who their next representative will be on the county commission.

Though results remain unofficial until the Board of Elections meets on Friday, initial tallies show Laura Semanson secured enough votes to win the Republican primary runoff for the District 5 post on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.

A total of 2,722 people voted for their next commissioner, which is 11.97 percent of the 22,749 active registered voters in District 5, according to Barbara Luth, supervisor of voter registration and elections for Forsyth County.

“That’s a pretty good number for a runoff. Average, but pretty good,” Luth said. “It picked up [after week one of advance voting]. I like to see the voters come out and make their decisions.”

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, which is the last time voter turnout is posted publicly before final results come in, Lanier United Methodist Church saw the highest turnout of the five precincts open that day.

The runoff was open to those residents in the district who did not vote on a Democratic ballot for the May 24 general primary election.

Advanced voting brought in 617 ballots, with the number of votes increasing each of the three weeks.

Polls were open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Forsyth County administration building throughout advance voting and at five precincts in the district on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Out of the 145 absentee ballots mailed, 88 were returned.

Semanson, who previously worked in the technology industry, brought in 57.68 percent of the votes, or 1,570 votes.

“Of course, we’re very happy with the outcome,” she said. “A lot of volunteers worked very, very hard on the campaign.”

She said her path to running was a “grassroots effort” and that she and her supporters have “never been politically involved before.”

“It was trying at times because it was my first entry at running for office. The process ended up working out for the average taxpayer,” Semanson said. “There are a lot of things going on in our country and county now where people are becoming more aware of what’s happening and feeling like they want to have a voice in things, and particularly here in Forsyth County I think we’ve had some growing pains, and people are wanting to have a hand in how things go forward.”

She said the county’s update of its comprehensive plan, which is expected to be voted on by the Board of Commissioners at the end of the year, will be a focus of hers once she gets into office.

“I want to really investigate how we’re going to get some good economic development in the county,” she said. “Everyone’s saying how we need more business here, but we also need a serious conversation on how we go about growing that.

“And that ties back to the [unified development code] and where we’re going to have those corridors for that business and how we go out into the world and bring business here and how we promote all the great things we have to offer here in Forsyth County from our location and our people.”

As no Democrat or Independent qualified for this race, she will run uncontested in the Nov. 8 general election as the presumptive winner.

Semanson, who has lived in Forsyth County for 15 years, will replace Commissioner Jim Boff in January, who did not seek re-election for the seat he was first elected to in 2008.

Semanson and Justin Hawkins secured their names on the runoff ballot after being the top two vote-getters in May, with Semanson receiving the primary’s most votes.

Hawkins, a pharmaceutical sales representative, finished with 42.32 percent of the vote Tuesday, or 1,152 votes.

Totals do not yet include four provisional ballots that will be counted when the Board of Elections meets on Friday.

They both beat out the race’s third candidate, Chandon Adams, in May.

In May, Semanson was the top vote-getter with 1,654 votes, or about 43 percent. Hawkins secured enough to force a runoff with 1,241 votes, or about 33 percent. Adams earned 914 votes, or about 24 percent.

The District 5 race was one of three commission seats up for re-election this year.

Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills defeated challenger Kelli Warren for the District 4 post she has retained since 2013.

Rick Swope is set to be the next District 2 commissioner after he was the only candidate to qualify for the seat held by Commissioner Brian Tam since 2005. Tam did not seek re-election.

Neither race will be contested by a Democrat in November.