Banker Kathy Morgan defeated builder Hubert White in the county's primary runoff Tuesday for the Democratic nomination for county chairman, 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent.
Nancy Schulz, who came in second place in the general primary on July 15, came from behind to defeat Jimmy Clark in their runoff for the Democratic nomination for District 3 commissioner. Schulz won with 57.5 percent of the vote to Clark's 42.5 percent.
Bill Watterson won Tuesday's sheriff's candidate runoff with about 53 percent of the vote, beating Stacey Cotton for the Republican nomination in this tightly contested race.
"I had faith in the voters. I feel like they took this negative campaign run against me and saw the truth," said Morgan, referencing her race with White, which turned decidedly negative in the last week with some last minute mailers and mass e-mails sent out by White's campaign and his supporters.
Compared to the July 15 primary, when 21.4 percent of registered voters cast ballots, only 14 percent voted on Tuesday or 6,942 people. The number of people voting in the Democrat's race for chairman fell from 4,133 to 3,216. Morgan netted 1,793 votes to White's 1,423.
"Now the real hard job is between now and November," said Morgan of her race against Republican County Chairman Aaron Varner. "I'm ready for it and excited for the people in Newton County."
District 3 race
Clark, who was on hand at the Newton County Board of Elections to watch the results come in on a large computer screen, said he was "shocked" that he did not win. Clark was the strong favorite going in. In the general Democratic primary for District 3, which featured five candidates, Clark was the clear leader, capturing 41 percent of the vote or 564 votes. Schulz originally won 35.4 percent in the primary.
"It just boils down to who can get the most people to the polls in a runoff," Clark said, adding "I'll just continue to stay positive and try to work in the community."
A surprising number of District 3 voters voted in the runoff. The original primary netted 1,375 district votes compared to the 1,155 voters who voted on Tuesday. Schulz gained votes on Tuesday going from 486 to 664, while Clark saw his vote count decrease - 564 to 491.
Schulz attributed her turnaround to a dedicated team of volunteers and neighborhood captains who spent the last few days working phone trees and standing out in the hot sunshine on streets Tuesday afternoon urging people to vote.
"I want to thank the voters. I heard them loud and clear. I'll be their voice," Schulz said of her win. "I want to thank my volunteers. I could not have done it without them."
Schulz also congratulated Clark on his race saying, "Mr. Clark displayed an incredible work ethic. I wish him the best. Now we're on to November."
She will face Republican nominee Keith Mitcham in the race for District 3 commissioner.
Watterson received 1,903 votes, or 53.1 percent, to Covington police Chief Cotton's 1,681 votes, or 46.9 percent - a margin of 6.2 percent, or about 300 votes, according to the unofficial results from the Board of Elections.
Low voter turnout certainly played a hand in this runoff. Only 3,584 voters turned out for the sheriff's race - about half the number that came out for last month's primary election.
In this round, Watterson actually received about 200 more votes than in the July 15 primary, which was split between four candidates, suggesting that he picked up some of the voters that chose other candidates last time.
Watterson, a lieutenant with the Newton County Sheriff's Office, was wary about accepting congratulations until the last vote came in. "I'm not going to jinx this," he said.
NCSO Investigator Sonny Goodson was less hesitant, working multiple cell phones at a time to spread the news.
But as the final precinct numbers came in, a cheer went up in the Administration Building where his supporters had gathered.
"I can't tell you, I am very happy to win tonight," said Watterson. "I just thank everybody that turned out.
"I had very stiff competition, otherwise we wouldn't be in a runoff," he said. "I wish (Cotton) well."
At Jimbo's Bar and Grill, where Cotton and his supporters had gathered to await the runoff results, the mood was more subdued.
"Obviously we're extremely disappointed," said Cotton, the chief of the Covington Police Department. "We pulled 49.9 percent last time. We came up short this time. We know the low voter turnout was going to be the key.
"We want to thank Bill for running a great campaign," he said, adding that his campaign was able to focus on the issues facing Newton County.
Watterson said he felt the key to the runoff win, along with the efforts of his campaign committee, was a mailer sent out by his campaign in recent weeks.
"I think more people learned about me," he said. "They learned about my family, they learned about my career. I think that may have been the key to our success."
His son chimed in that winning the nomination was a great present for Watterson, who celebrates his 20th anniversary with his wife today.
For now, Watterson said he was going to take a breather, and then start planning for November.
Democratic nominee NCSO Lt. Ezell Brown said he looks forward to November no matter who would have won the Republican nomination.
"We're ready to move forward," Brown said. "We continue to keep a positive message and campaign."
The general election will be held November 4.
All votes were unofficial as of press time.
Covington's local radio show, My Brother and Sister's Keeper, hosted by Forrest Sawyer Jr. will have an analysis of last night's results from 7 a.m. - 10 a.m. this morning on channel WGFS 1430 AM.