Despite not asking for donations and placing very few political signs, Covington resident Todd Hilton still managed to secure second place in the State Senate 17 Republican Primary and a spot in the Aug. 10 runoff."I tried to run as a real person, not a politician. I had no consultants, no professional managers, I just run on my message, passion and background. A lot of people told me I didn’t have chance, because I wasn’t running typical campaign. They said I would be an also ran," Hilton said. "I’m humbled by support. I have great friends. I’m really encouraged because of the amount of money spent on race. I had a plan to not ask for donations, and I didn’t pursue any donations."
Hilton said the 300 signs in the district carrying his name were placed by only three volunteers. However, he said they carried a powerful message because they were in people’s yards, not on public rights-of-way. In addition, he said the videos he posted on You Tube and on his website gave people access to his passionate message.
"I think people are tired of politics as usual. Here I am, I need to stand up and make a difference," he said. "I think the key was that I had a strong message people could identify with. I didn’t give political answers."
As technology director for Social Circle City Schools, Hilton ran a campaign focused on improving education by putting an educator into the political process.
Hilton will face Rick Jeffares, a former Henry County Commissioner and owner of J&T Environmental Services, a water quality preservation company. Jeffares was the leading vote getter Tuesday, grabbing 42.7 percent of the vote in the district. While Hilton used a non-traditional approach, Jeffares credited his dedicated team of volunteers for spreading the word.
"We had a bunch of people working hard. We really didn’t know how it would turn out, but we worked hard and had 1,000 volunteers, knocking on doors. We did everything we thought we needed to do and I guess it showed," Jeffares said. He also thanked Hilton and fellow Republican contender Ester Fleming Jr. for running a clean race.
Jeffares said his focus during the next three weeks will be to continue to spread the word, because the runoff is just as important as the primary.
"The bad thing about the runoff is that it’s hard to get people out a second time. We’ll try to get some people who missed the vote yesterday and continue doing what we’ve been doing. We’re pretending we’re in last place," Jeffares said.
Jeffares was elected to the Henry County Board of Commission in 2008 and resigned that seat to run for State Senate District 17. He said didn’t plan to run for state office, but when current Sen. John Douglas (R-Social Circle) decided not to seek reelection, it caught everyone off guard and presented an opportunity. According to his website, Jeffares was previously city manager for Locust Grove, director of water and wastewater treatment for the city of Covington and director of water and water pollution control for the city of McDonough.
In order to help voters prepare for the Aug. 10 runoff, a local conservative advocate group, Patriots Table, is hosting a State Senate 17 forum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday at the Little Red School House, next to the Covington Y on Newton Drive. Patriots Table Charter Member Ralph Brian said the event will be moderated by local resident Fred Wheeler, and audience members will be able to submit questions via note cards handed out at the forum. For more information visit patriotstable.org.
In the Democratic State Senate 17 Primary, Jim Nichols of Stockbridge defeated Covington resident Nichols Day by gathering 62.8 percent of the vote. Nichols is a UPS truck loader and blogger who ran on a platform of improving the state budget.
"I think the message from voters on all sides of the aisle is that they're fed up with the status quo," said Nichols. "We've got to shake up what's going on in Atlanta."
"I took on the state senate caucus's candidate. I am the young upstart, I guess. I think it's time to give the Republicans some full court press and I think voters responded to that. I'm not the only person that's been unhappy with what Democratic party has been doing for a number of years. I think the message really hit voters and they responded. The Democratic party needs to be heading in a new direction too."He said he was not worried that a run-off election was going to give his Republican opponents more press time. "The more Republican politicians talk, the more it's going to remind voters Republicans got them into this mess in Georgia," he said. "I'm looking forward to finding out who my opponent's going to be."
Nichols could be reached for comment by press time.