(Nov. 6, 9:36 p.m.) Polls are now closed and Rockdale News will bring you the latest results on the local races. Click to refresh for up-to-the-minute results.
All 18 out of 18 precincts reporting; mail-in absentee and in-person absentee votes reporting (38,069, or 75.12 percent, of active registered Rockdale voters cast ballots) (unofficial results)
(Names listed in alphabetical order)
Presidential (votes in Rockdale)
Gary Johnson (L) %
Barack Obama (D) (incumbent) 57.63%
Mitt Romney (R) 41.28 %
County Commission Chairman
Jason Hill (R) - 17,029 (46.19%)
Richard Oden (D) (incumbent) - 19,803 (53.74%)
Post 1 Commissioner
Tom Harrison (R) - 16,713 (45.37%)
Oz Nesbitt, Sr. (D) (incumbent) - 20,082 (54.51%)
Clerk of Courts
Holly Bowie (R) - 15,507 (42.18%)
Ruth Wilson (D) (incumbent) - 21,236 (57.77%)
Eric Levett (D) - 18,657 (49.93%)
Jeff Wigington (R) (incumbent) - 18,675 (49.98%)
Probate Court Judge
Charles Mays, Sr. (D) - 19,035 (51.69%)
Lillis Brown (R) (incumbent) - 17,764 (48.24%)
Rakeim RJ Hadley (D) - 18,624 (50.45%)
Dan Ray (R) (incumbent) - 18,274 (49.5%)
Jo Coggins (R) - 15,939 (43.24%)
George Levett Jr. (D) - 20,752 (56.53%)
Chief Magistrate Court Judge
Phinia Aten (D) - 19,494 (52.95%)
Rudy Horne (R) (incumbent) - 17,305 (47.01%)
Constitutional amendment on charter schools (Rockdale)
YES 64.27% 23,513
NO 35.73% 13,074
Constitutional amendment on charter schools (Georgia) (134 of 159 counties partially reporting)
YES 55.69% 653,574
NO 44.31% 519,948
Rockdale County signaled its transformation to a blue county as Democrats swept all the local seats except Sheriff, which had a difference of less than 20 votes, and unseated long-time Republican incumbents.
Somber faces filled the Whistlepost Tavern in Olde Town Conyers, where Republican candidates and their supporters had gathered while across the highway, at the Lotus Bistro, Democratic candidates and their supporters buzzed with excitement and celebration.
About 75 percent of active registered voters in Rockdale, or 38,069, cast their ballots during the weeks leading up to Nov. 6 and on Election Day itself.
The race for Rockdale County Sheriff was too close to call by the end of Tuesday night.
Five-term Republican incumbent Sheriff Jeff Wigington was running neck and neck with first-time Democratic challenger and Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Levett throughout most of the evening. Neither candidate had the 50 percent plus one vote needed for an outright win; Wigington had 18,675 votes (49.98 percent), just 18 more votes than Levett’s 18,657 votes (49.93 percent).
Provisional ballots and military ballots will need to be counted before a final result can be determined.
“Obviously I’ve never had a race like this where neither myself nor my opponent got 50 percent plus one, so this is new to all of us,” said Wigington at the elections board office after results were announced. “We have worked hard. I’m actually shocked that some of the other candidates didn’t do better than they did and I feel for them because I know they all worked hard too. I do want to thank all of my supporters and the people who have worked hard. It’s just a different race.
“I have a son in the military so obviously his vote and the provisional ballots will be counted and once they come in we will know the result. And I will be fine either way. I am very blessed whether I win or I lose. I do worry about the people at the department and the folks that have put their necks on the line.”
Levett, who was gathered with other Democratic candidates and supporters at the Lotus Bistro, said “I am glad and thankful that everybody came out and voted. As it looks we are going to continue to fight for victory and I believe we are still going to declare victory. We are just going to have to wait and see.”
In 2008, Wigington won with a margin of more than 4 points, or 3,589 votes, over the Democratic candidate Donald Ferguson.
The Tax Commissioner race was the next closest race, with a difference of 350 votes. Democratic challenger RJ Hadley received 50.45 percent of the vote, or 18,624, and Republican incumbent and five-term Tax Commissioner Dan Ray received 49.5 percent, or 18,274.
Reached by phone after the results were announced, Ray said “The voters have spoken and they want to change and go a different direction.” He pointed out since the July 31 primary, 2000 more voters had registered
“I wish (Hadley) luck. There’s a lot of things changing come January 1, especially with March 1 looming over the horizon and the motor vehicle tax. There’ll be a lot of questions and issues with that.”
He also thanked supporters and the community. “It’s been my pleasure to serve you the past 20 years. Thank you for giving me that opportunity. I love this job, enjoyed it. Worked very hard to try to make you proud of me.”
Hadley, who previously served as County Chief of Staff and also formerly ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, said “We worked hard and we were steadfast and, more importantly, we were united from the very beginning and, as you see, until the very end. That is what makes a difference and we are really excited for what lies ahead for Rockdale.”
Incumbent Lillis Brown lost her bid for a sixth term as Rockdale County Probate Judge to Democratic challenger Charles Mays, who received 51.69% of the vote compared to Judge Brown’s 48.24%.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Mays, a local construction contractor, said following announcement of the election results Tuesday evening. “I am putting my team together and we are going to go in and try to make the things we talked about happen.”
Mays received a total of 19,035 votes and Judge Brown received 17,764 votes.
Judge Brown spoke to the supporters present for the election results at the Whistle Post Tavern Tuesday night, where Republican candidates had gathered to await results.
“I am extremely disappointed,” Brown said. “My first thought is, how can people vote for someone who’s never been in court and never worked in the court and put them in as judge? It just makes no sense."
She continued, "There’s going to be a transition. I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to handle that. I’m not going to leave the court in a mess." She thanked attendees for their support over the years.
She said afterwards, "I’ve worked hard for this county and I’m proud of what I’ve done. I’ll walk away with my head held high. The voters have spoken and I will respect that. I’ll move onto the next chapter in my life."
Chief Magistrate Court
Democratic challenger and first-time candidate Phinia Aten won 52.95 percent of the vote, or 19, 494, while Republican incumbent Judge Rudy Horne won 47.01 percent, or 17,305 votes, in a contentious battle for the role of Chief Magistrate Judge of Rockdale County.
“Tonight was a triumph of unity over division, justice over injustice, and I am so proud of the citizens of Rockdale County,” said Aten.
Horne was not able to be reached by Tuesday night.
County Commission Chairman Richard Oden was re-elected for a second term by 2,774 votes or a margin of more than 7 points.
Oden received 19,803 votes (53.74 percent) while Republican challenger Jason Hill received 17,029 votes (46.19 percent).
“We are going to focus on taking us forward into economic development and education, and taking care of our seniors and our kids,” said Oden at the Lotus Bistro. “We are really going to put Rockdale where it should be economically. The citizens have spoken - forward ever, backwards never.”
In a speech to supporters at the Whistlepost, Hill said, “We did everything we could do. I am proud of that, I’m proud of my team.”
“We fought for what we believed in. I thought we were to the point that people would look at what was best for this community, but I was wrong.”
“We’ve knocked on every door, waved every sign. It just didn’t turn our way tonight. I still believe in this county, I thank you for all the support. We’ll move forward.”
In 2008, Oden won with a much narrower margin of less than 1 point, or less than 500 votes.
Post 1 Commissioner
County Commission Post I incumbent Oz Nesbitt was elected to a second term after defeating challenger Tom Harrison. Nesbitt received 54.51%, or 20,082 votes, to Harrison’s 45.37%, or 16,713 votes.
“Congratulations to the people of Rockdale County,” Nesbitt said Tuesday night when walking in the Democratic celebration at the Lotus Bistro. “The people have spoken and I thank them for their vote of confidence. It’s time to get to work.”
Harrison said in a written message Tuesday night, “I am personally disappointed but proud of the race I ran. But I am more disappointed for the future of Rockdale County.”
Clerk of Superior and State Courts
Incumbent Clerk of Superior Court Ruth Wilson will stay in office for a second term following a contentious race with Republican Challenger Hollie Bowie.
Wilson received 21,236 (57.77%) of the votes cast while Bowie received 15,507 (42.18%) of the vote.
“God is good all of the time and he doesn’t make mistakes,” Wilson said Tuesday night.
Bowie was not able to be reached Tuesday night.
Deputy Coroner George Levett, Jr. was elected to his first term as coroner to replace retiring Coroner Stephen Boyle. Considered by many to be the friendliest local race, Levett defeated Republican challenger Jo Coggins by 4,813 votes, or 56.53%, to Coggins’ 43.42% of the votes.
“This is a historic night,” Levett said after the election Tuesday night. “This is a bitter sweet victory – I am glad that I won but I am sorry my mother couldn’t be here to see it as she passed away three days ago. We are excited and look forward to bringing great ideas to Rockdale County.”
This election was the first time either candidate had run for elected office and the two have worked together as deputy coroners for several years.
“We did the best that we could and I really appreciate my supporters” Coggins, the current chief deputy coroner and a unit secretary in the ER at Rockdale Medical Center, said by phone Tuesday night.
Rockdale Democratic Party Chairperson Tisa Washington said this win was historic and signaled a shift in the county to becoming a part of metro-Atlanta.
“This win changes the face of Rockdale County. Just four years ago, we didn’t have any Democrats in office at the local level. And now, we have seven, possibly eight.”
After the primary, she said, the party had “put their head down and focused on running a coordinated campaign.”
“We knew it was not going to be one group that was going to be able to do it on their own… As a party, we took a support role. We got back to our mission, to get Democrats elected. We made calls, we knocked on doors, we reached out to voters. It paid off in a big way for us tonight.
“In 2008, Obama won Rockdale. That was exciting. It’s even more exciting that he won Rockdale by a larger margin in 2012, and so did all of our other candidates. A lot of people said oh it was a fluke in 2008. It wasn’t a fluke. We’ve been silent in Rockdale County for far too long.”
After the results were announced, Rockdale Republican Chairman Don Williamson thanked the team of Republican candidates and their supporters and said there was a glimmer of hope in saving one of the races.
Business owner Jean Yontz also spoke before the room at Whistlepost. She urged supporters, "Do not give up. Please do not give up. I’m staying right here and fighting for what we believe in... Please continue to support the people in the community who are leaders. Please do not give up on them. Continue to do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do."