COVINGTON, Ga. — Jeffrey L. Foster is primed to take the place of Superior Court Judge Eugene Benton on the Alcovy Judicial Circuit in January after defeating Robert H. Stansfield in a narrowly contested race Tuesday.
Foster, a Walton County attorney, was elected judge after he won the nonpartisan Aug. 11 runoff election by a total count of 8,637-7,850, garnering more than 52%.
The Alcovy Judicial Circuit includes Newton and Walton counties. Newton County voters showed favor towards Stansfield, a Covington native, as he garnered 5,768 votes (64.82%). Foster dominated the polls in Walton County with 5,507 votes (72.57%).
Prior to the absentee vote count, Foster led Stansfield by more than 2,000 votes, but despite the sizable lead, neither candidate was ready to declare a winner.
After more than 8,000 absentee ballots were counted, Stansfield pulled 4,341 more votes, cutting the margin to fewer than 800 votes for a close finish. Only provisional ballots and military votes remain to be counted.
Foster said he was grateful for the opportunity and appreciative of the voters’ confidence.
“I am humbled by the outpouring of support and the trust placed in me by the residents of the Alcovy Judicial Circuit,” Foster said. “I love this place and will strive to leave it better than I found it, and will honor my promise.”
Tuesday’s outcome wasn’t what Stansfield hoped for, but he was proud of his campaign and wished Foster well.
“I would have never imagined a judicial campaign marked by a pandemic, date changes, a runoff race and the death of a sitting judge,” he said in a statement. “I am grateful for the support of all the people who helped my campaign with their time and treasure and those who voted for me. I am especially indebted to my wife and daughter for their encouragement and their work shoulder to shoulder with me over these many months. I also want to thank my law partner who bore a greater load at the law office and was a constant source of encouragement. I congratulate judge-elect Foster tonight on his election and hope that his tenure on the bench is marked with all the virtues that make a great trial judge.”
Foster is a partner in the Foster, Hanks and Ballard law firm in Monroe and also serves as a Social Circle Municipal Court judge. He is a former associate Walton County Magistrate judge and Monroe Municipal Court judge.
Foster is a graduate of the University of Delaware and earned his law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law. He worked as a law clerk for Superior Court Judge John Ott and as chief assistant district attorney for the Alcovy Judicial Circuit before opening his law firm in 2004.
His victory preserves the traditional split between the two counties that comprise the Alcovy Judicial Circuit. Traditionally the judgeships are split evenly between residents of the two counties, and when there have been an odd number of judges, the larger county — historically Newton — gets the extra judge.
There were three Newton County residents and two from Walton before the death of Judge Horace L. Johnson Jr. of Covington on July 1.
Gov. Brian Kemp will choose Johnson’s successor. Foster will succeed Judge Eugene M. Benton of Monroe on Jan. 1.
David Clemons, editor and publisher of The Walton Tribune contributed to this report.