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Runoff appears likely for District 24 state House seat in Forsyth

The Buzz: Week 21

By: Joshua Sutton

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By the numbers

State House District 24

* Sheri Gilligan — 49.9 percent, 1,785 votes

* Will Kremer — 4.8 percent, 171 votes

* Ethan Underwood — 21 percent, 739 votes

* David Van Sant — 24.5 percent, 877 votes


Source: Forsyth County elections office

FORSYTH COUNTY — A July 14 runoff election appears likely in the race to fill the District 24 seat in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Sheri Gilligan received the most votes, 1,785, for about 49.9 percent of the total — just shy of the 50 percent plus one vote required to win without a runoff.

But that tally put her well ahead of the other three Republican candidates, including second-place finisher David Van Sant, who drew 877 votes, or about 24.5 percent.

At stake is the remaining 18 months on the term of longtime incumbent Mark Hamilton, who stepped down last month to relocate to Tennessee for a job.

According to Forsyth County elections officials, four provisional ballots still must be counted Friday, when the results will be finalized.

District 24 includes parts of six precincts in Forsyth: Coal Mountain, Cumming, Midway, Heardsville, Otwell and Polo.

Gilligan said she was grateful for the support she received.

“I just want to thank God, thank all of my family and friends and supporters, the people who gave so sacrificially and thank the 24th District,” she said.

Van Sant’s political consultant, Seth Weathers, said their camp’s supporters were the driving force of the campaign.

“We were an upstart, community-based campaign that received constant attacks from big corporate-funded PAC’s yet survived against all the odds,” Weathers said.

The election field also included Will Kremer and Ethan Underwood.

Kremer received 171 votes, or about 4.8 percent of the total, while Underwood received 739 votes, or about 21 percent.

Kremer, second vice chairman of the 7th District GOP and former chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, said his age may have been a factor.

“Truthfully, I think that the results show that Forsyth County doesn’t trust a 21-year-old to make legislation,” Kremer said.

He commended Gilligan and Van Sant for their success and acknowledged the diversity in views of local conservatives, which he said can be beneficial to voters.

“Forsyth County truly has a great field of Republicans that can run,” he said. “And the fact that four people chose to throw their hast in the ring I think goes to show how many different ideas for Forsyth County we had and how it’s such a different mixture of ideas in the county despite the fact that we’re all Republicans,” he said. 

Underwood, a local attorney who has previously served as chairman of the local and district Republican parties, said he was “disappointed” in the outcome but proud of and grateful for his supporters.

“I think my campaign team did the best job that we possibly could,” he said. “We ran a great campaign, and I’m content with our efforts.”

Gilligan and Van Sant said they are prepared to campaign over the next month if a runoff is needed.

“We just continue working and we just take each day as it comes and my goal is to get my people back out to the polls and just never give up,” said Gilligan, a former CIA analyst who now teaches at Lanier Technical College.

Weathers said Van Sant’s supporters remain passionate about sending the local attorney to the state Capitol.

“We are going into this runoff with refreshed enthusiasm and excitement,” Weathers said. “This campaign was a collection of everyday residents who are looking for someone that will represent them and not the interests of lobbyists and other special interest groups.”

Kremer and Underwood both said they have no immediate plans to run for office again.

“I’m going to get some rest and just talk to my family and enjoy some time at home,” Underwood said.

Kremer said he would be focusing on the family insurance business, but added: “If the situation arises where I feel like there’s a need, and I feel like I’m that person to do it, I would do it.”