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Mary Bagby Wins Athens School Board Runoff With Just 90 Votes

Mary P. Bagby. Screenshot: Irami Osei-Frimpong via YouTube

In what may have been the lowest-turnout election in Athens-Clarke County history, Mary P. Bagby beat incumbent Claudia Butts in a runoff Tuesday for the Clarke County Board of Education District 2 seat.

Bagby received 90 votes to Butts’ 70. With 160 total votes cast out of nearly 7,000 registered voters in the East Athens district, turnout was just 2.1%. Only 63 people voted on Election Day, with 67 voting early and 31 voting by mail. One of the in-person early voters cast a blank ballot.

During the first round of voting May 21, none of the three candidates received a majority. Butts edged out Bagby for first place, with former school board member Kirrena Gallagher finishing a close third. With just 893 cast, turnout in that race was also low—about 13%, compared to 20% countywide.

It was Bagby’s fifth try at a school board seat. She applied for a vacancy when longtime board member Vernon Payne resigned for health reasons in 2019, but the board chose Frances Berry. Berry resigned later that year, and Bagby applied again, but the board appointed Antwon Stephens. When Stephens opted not to run for a full term in 2020, Bagby ran against Gallagher. Gallagher then resigned to run in a 2023 special election for county commission that Melissa Link won, and Bagby applied for the vacancy a third time, but the board voted in Butts to fill the rest of Gallagher’s term.

Bagby was one of controversial former superintendent Demond Means’ staunchest supporters, regularly denouncing his critics at the podium during school board meetings.

This post has been updated to correct the name of the school board member who resigned in 2019.