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Republicans Hang On to State House Seats and More Athens Election Results

State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens).

Republican state Reps. Houston Gaines and Marcus Wiedower easily held on to two seats Democrats had hoped to flip today.

Gaines (R-Athens) defeated activist and educator Mokah Jasmine Johnson 56% to 44%, while Wiedower (R-Watkinsville) won his second rematch with software engineer Jonathan Wallace 55% to 45%.

Both districts straddle Clarke and Oconee counties, and Democrats flipped them in a 2017 special election before the GOP won them back in 2018. Turnout was far higher in conservative Oconee (84%) than liberal Clarke (64%) this cycle, propelling Gaines and Wiedower to victories that were not nearly as close as expected, or even as close as they were two years ago.

In another race that included both Clarke and Oconee, progressive candidate Deborah Gonzalez narrowly missed winning outright in a three-way race for Western Circuit district attorney with 49% of the vote. She’ll face independent James Chafin, who won 35%, in a runoff. Acting DA Brian Patterson, a moderate Democrat, won just 16% of the vote.

As expected, ACCPD Sgt. John Q. Williams easily won the sheriff’s race with 71% of the vote over Republican Robert Hare. Williams narrowly defeated incumbent Sheriff Ira Edwards in the June Democratic primary.

Also as expected, both of Athens’ Republican state senators retained their seats in landslides. Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) defeated Zachary Perry, a UGA law student, with 61% of the vote, and Sen. Frank Ginn (R-Danielsville) beat Democrat Dawn Johnson 66% to 34%. The majority of both districts are made up of the heavily Republican areas surrounding Athens.

It also came as no surprise that Democratic challengers lost overwhelmingly in two local congressional races that are likewise dominated by rural Republican areas. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice of Lake Oconee kept his seat by winning 64% of the vote against Democrat Tabitha Johnson-Green in the 10th District, and Andrew Clyde, owner of a Bogart gun store, defeated Democrat Devin Pandy with 80% in the 9th District. That seat was vacated by Rep. Doug Collins, who finished third in one of tonight’s U.S. Senate race to Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock. Loeffler and Warnock will face off in January.

In a special election to fill the last two months of the late District 6 Commissioner Jerry NeSmith’s term, Jesse Houle won over Chad Lowery 57% to 43%. Houle lost to NeSmith in June but was awarded the seat starting in January because NeSmith died shortly before the election. With tonight’s victory, Houle will take his seat immediately.

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