The state House District 5 special election race was whittled down to two candidates Tuesday, as Republicans Matt Barton and Jesse Vaughn are now set to face off in a Feb. 5 runoff to decide who will fill the seat formerly held by the late Rep. John Meadows.

Vaughn, a local attorney, was the top vote getter, finishing with 33.72 percent of the 3,520 votes cast. Barton, a self-employed businessman who previously served on the Calhoun Board of Education and City Council, came in second with 23.15 percent.

Since neither candidate secured the more than 50 percent of the vote required to win outright, the top two finishers now head to a runoff.  

Right behind Barton for much of the night as election results came in was Republican Scott Tidwell, who had 20.99 percent. Tidwell, who pastors Prayer Baptist Church in Chatsworth, was 76 votes behind Barton’s count of 815. Tidwell jumped ahead of Barton when the single Murray County precinct results came in, but Barton climbed back ahead as Gordon County precincts began to report Election Day results.

“It was like a rollercoaster as the results came in,” Barton said Tuesday night.

Finishing in fourth place was Larry Massey Jr., a former Gordon County Board of Education member, with 14.89 percent. He was followed by Democrat Brian Rosser with 4.63 percent and Republican Steve Cochran with 2.61 percent.

Both Barton and Vaughn said on Tuesday night that with a six-candidate field they knew a runoff was likely, and thanked voters for pushing them into the top two. And with four weeks before their runoff date, they plan on continuing to press their messages in the community and interacting with voters.

“We’ll just keep on keeping on … and hope that’s what will put us on top in a couple weeks,” said Vaughn.

“We’ll go back to the drawing board,” Barton said, finding ways to improve his campaign while continuing what they did well.

Both candidates encouraged voters to attend a forum hosted by the Gordon County Republican Party on Thursday night. The forum will be a part of the regular monthly GOP meeting at the Calhoun Depot, starting at 6 p.m.