First Democrat in a generation, first-ever African American wins first district election to Fayette County Commission
The Nov. 4 election saw a 61 percent voter turnout in Fayette County — number one in the state — and the first general election featuring federal court-imposed district voting contests. Another Fayette first: The first African American was elected to the Fayette County Commission.
The election had 42,581 of Fayette’s 69,748 active voters (61.09 percent) casting ballots. That percentage exceeds the 2010 mid-term election that had a 60.34 percent turnout with 42,378 ballots cast.
Results from the 2012 general election showed 58,828 ballots cast with a 78.92 percent voter turnout.
District 5 Democrat Pota Coston, of Tyrone, defeated Republican incumbent Commissioner Allen McCarty in an election that saw Coston take 67 percent (5,741) of the vote. Coston is the first African American to win election to the Fayette County Commission and the first Democrat since the early 1990s.
NAACP Fayette Branch President John Jones in a Nov. 5 press release noted the decision earlier this year by federal Judge Timothy Batten who ruled in favor of the NAACP and mandated district voting in Fayette County.
“On Nov. 4, African Americans and other minorities residing in the new District 5 in North Fayette County took full advantage of their unprecedented opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice for the first time in the entire history of Fayette County. African-American female candidate Pota Coston won by an huge margin,” Jones said. “Coston’s win is also historic because it is the first time an African American has been elected to the county commission in Fayette County’s 193-year history. This is because in previous county commission or school board elections, at-large voting severely diluted the black vote. Thus, the black vote was rendered virtually insignificant.”
The Nov. 5 election also had retired school teacher Diane Basham (Rep.) defeating Ogechi Oparah (Dem.) in the Fayette County Board of Education District 4 race. Basham received 64 percent (5,498) of the vote while Oparah took 36 percent (3,145).
It was the first time either of the candidates had run for political office.
Also featured in local races Nov. 5 was District 5 school board member Leonard Presberg (Dem.) who squared-off against Dean B. Dunton (Rep.).
Presberg won his first election after having been appointed to the school board three years ago after the death of board member Sam Tolbert. Presberg garnered 67 percent (5,644) of the votes to the 33 percent (2,751) received by Dunton, who made virtually no appearances during the campaign season.
In the only contested race for the Georgia House of Representatives involving Fayette, incumbent Republican John Yates of Griffin easily beat back a Democrat challenger Mario Driver, 66 percent to 34 percent in Fayette, Coweta and Spalding counties. Yates, part of the crew of a World War II bomber in the European theater, is one of the chamber’s longest-serving members.
Fayette was similar to the rest of Georgia in the U.S. Senate’s and governor’s races. Locally, Republican David Perdue beat Democrat Michelle Nunn 62 percent to 36 percent for the open Senate seat, and incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal outpolled the former president’s grandson Jason Carter by the same margin, 62 to 36.
Fayette was one of only four counties in the state to climb above the 60 percent turnout mark and by far the largest county above that mark, according to a tabulation on the Ga. Secretary of State’s website. The other three counties with 60 percent turnout were Wilkinson, Oconee and Morgan. The county with the worst turnout in the state? Little Chattahoochee County, just below Columbus, where only 715 voters out of 3,714 registered actually cast ballots — a turnout of 19.25 percent.
Statewide, more than 2.5 million citizens voted to produce an off-year turnout of 50.03 percent.