Former Polk County Commissioner Ricky Clark and newest commissioner, Linda Liles, are headed to a runoff after they emerged as the two candidates with the most votes in last Tuesday’s general election.
Cedartown’s Trey Kelley easily retained his District 16 Georgia House of Representatives seat, and Jason Anavitarte won the State Senate seat for District 31 formerly held by Bill Heath.
Clark and Liles were two of the five Republican candidates who qualified for the special election to fill the unexpired term of Jennifer Hulsey, who vacated her County Commission District 2 seat midway through her term to run for Georgia House District 16 as a Republican.
Liles was appointed by the commission in March after being selected from a group of applicants, which included Clark.
Liles got the most votes with 5,902, equal to 38.41% of the total vote, while Clark was next with 3,415, or 22.23% of the vote. Glenn Robinson was next with 2,785, followed by Jody Bentley Smith with 2,501. Christopher Roberson was last with 761 votes.
Since none of the five county commission candidates received the 50%-plus one majority in the general election, Clark and Liles will move on to the Dec. 1 runoff election for local and state races in Georgia.
Kelley received 18,106 votes in the district to defeat Democratic challenger Lyndsay Arrendale from Euharlee with 78.11% of the vote. Kelley, a Republican, got 12,495 votes to Arrendale’s 4,149 in Polk County.
Georgia House District 16 includes all of Polk County and portions of Bartow and Haralson counties. This will be Kelley’s fifth two-year term in the House.
In the Georgia 31st State Senate race, Paulding County’s Jason Anavitarte won over Tianna Smith to give the Republican the seat recently held by Bill Heath, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
Anavitarte got 65,969 votes in the district, which includes Polk, Haralson and most of Paulding County. Smith got 27,114, or 29.13% of the total vote. Polk County voters put Anavitarte over Smith 13,235 to 3,536.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Republican candidate for the U.S. House District 14, had locked up the seat prior to the votes being counted after her only opposition — Democrat Kevin Van Ausdal — withdrew from the race in September. Still, Van Ausdal remained on the ballot.
Greene won Polk County with 13,254 votes to Van Ausdal’s 3,491.
Districtwide, which includes the counties of Floyd, Gordon, Polk, Chattooga, Walker, Catoosa, Dade, Whitfield, Haralson, Murray and Paulding, and part of Pickens, Greene took 74.48% of the vote.
Polk County had a record voter turnout for this election, with more than 79% of all ballots cast coming from advance in-person voting and absentee ballots. That allowed for a far less busy Election Day on Tuesday with virtually no waits at any of the county’s seven precincts.
“We feel pretty good about the process as a whole, especially on Election Day,” Polk County Elections Coordinator Brande Coggins said. “We had some technical difficulties first thing in the morning on Tuesday, but those were resolved quickly and didn’t hold voters up for long.”
Polk County officials had just a few small problems counting votes on Election Night, mostly dealing with absentee ballots having stray marks or more than one candidate per race selected. Any ballots with those issues were checked and resolved by Friday evening, according to Coggins.
More than 72% of Polk County’s 24,189 registered active voters cast a ballot in the election, with the elections office ending with 17,448 total ballots cast. That includes 11,080 advance in-person, 2,825 absentee ballots, and 3,519 on Tuesday.
That’s a better turnout in both percentage and total voters for Polk County when compared to the 2016 general election, which had about a 70% turnout and 14,323 votes cast.