Fayette primary outcome: Commissioner Ognio loses reelection bid

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Through the looking glass, workers at the Fayette County Elections Office receive ballots from precincts. Photo/Ben Nelms.
Through the looking glass, workers at the Fayette County Elections Office receive ballots from precincts. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Nearly two days after voters made their final choices, the vote counting has concluded.

All but one local challenger lost to incumbents. The one exception was a third rematch between incumbent Fayette County Commissioner Randy Ognio and former commissioner Lee Hearn. Twice before, in 2012 and 2016, Ognio defeated Hearn. The third time was the winner for Hearn, as he edged the two-term Ognio by 196 votes out of 5,428 cast in the District 2 Republican Primary. Hearn is seeking to return to the county commission to which he won a seat in 2008. Ognio upended then-Commissioner Hearn in 2012, and won again in a rematch in 2016.

Hearn will face no Democrat challenger in the November general election, so he is in effect the next District 2 commissioner come Jan. 1, 2021.

Two other commission incumbents — Eric Maxwell and Charles Oddo — beat back Republican challengers for their posts. Oddo won the District 5 at-large post with 70% of the vote, turning back Ann Wittenberg and William “Bill” Yarde. And Maxwell turned back a challenge from political first-timer Sonja Gibson with 78% of the vote.

In November, Maxwell will face Democrat Vickie Butler while Oddo will be opposed by Democrat William Lightle.

Controversy over a new Booth Middle School site and its cost apparently didn’t matter to most of Scott Hollowell’s supporters in the Board of Education District 3 Republican contest. He got 58% of the vote in a 3-way race against former board member Marion Key and Neil Sullivan. Hollowell faces no Democrat opposition in November.

Three incumbent magistrate judges beat back challenges in the non-partisan races that each drew more than 31,000 votes.

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Final non-certified JUNE 9 ELECTION RETURNS

Third count announced 3:30 p.m. June 11

(All ballots counted except 25-30 overseas military votes)

Republican Primary contested races

[(I) is “incumbent”]

Fayette County Commission District 1

Precincts reporting 100%

Sonja Gibson — 886 (22%)

Eric K. Maxwell (I) — 3,083 (78%)

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Fayette County Commission District 2

Precincts reporting 100%

Lee Hearn — 2,812 (52%)

Randy C. Ognio (I) — 2,616 (48%)

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Fayette County Commission District 5 (at-large)

Precincts reporting 100%

Charles W. Oddo (I) — 11,087 (70%)

Ann Wittenberg — 3,424 (22%)

William “Bill” Yarde — 1,280 (8%)

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Fayette Board of Education District 3

Precincts reporting 100%

Scott Hollowell (I) — 2,491 (58%)

Marion Key — 1,334 (31%)

Cornelius “Neil” Sullivan — 485 (11%)

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The District 5 at-large BoE post was an uncontested race.

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NON-PARTISAN MAGISTRATE COURT JUDGE

Post 1

Precincts reporting 100%

Christy Dunkelberger (I) — 17,746 (57%)

Pamela Patterson — 13,646 (43%)

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Post 2

Precincts reporting 100%

Sheila S. Huddleston — 12,366 (40%)

Kathy Brown Valencia (I) — 18,910 (60%)

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Post 4

Precincts reporting 100%

Natalie Ashman — 15,077 (48%)

James A. White (I) — 16,395 (52%)

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State House District 71

(includes northwest slice of Peachtree City north of Ga. Highway 54 and west of Hwy. 74)

Counties/precincts reporting 100%

Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison — 2,276 (41%)

Philip Singleton (I) — 3,258 (59%)

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There are no contested Democrat races for county offices. However, incumbent Democrat District 63 Rep. Debra Bazemore is being challenged in the Democrat Primary by Kenneth “Ken” Kincaid. District 63 includes a large section of eastern Fayette County. It runs from the Fulton County line southward through Fayetteville, ending in Woolsey below Hampton and Hall roads.

Ga. House, District 63

Counties/precincts reporting 100%

Debra Bazemore (I) — 8,422 (74%)

Kenneth “Ken Kincaid — 2,956 (26%)

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[Below are earlier versions of the election returns story.]

UPDATED 7:30 P.M. JUNE 10 — With “hundreds, rather than thousands” of absentee ballots left to tally in contested Fayette County races, one incumbent seems likely to be in the loser’s bracket: Randy Ognio.

The current chairman of the Fayette County Commission, Ognio is trailing challenger Lee Hearn by nearly the same percentage as last night at midnight. Hearn has 52% of the vote, and Ognio has 48%. With only a few hundred ballots left to be counted, Ognio trails by 184 votes. See the tallies below.

It’s a turnabout from 2016 when the incumbent Ognio beat Hearn.

If the gap holds up, Ognio will have a little more than 6 months left to serve on the commission.

Fayette elections officials counted all day today and went home a little after 6 p.m., according to Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson. “Elections just posted the second set of results. They are very close to completing, however, the volunteer Voter Review Panel decided to go home and resume tomorrow. Numbers remain incomplete, but we are talking hundreds rather than thousands of votes remain at this point. The final votes will be tabulated in the morning and emailed before lunch.”

Rapson described in an email sent a little after 9:30 a.m. what the situation was: “All in person voting results are already reported — that means what occurred yesterday and the past three weeks of early in-person voting here and PTC Library have been reported.

“What is remaining is the mailed in ballots.  Provisional ballots and military/overseas ballots have until Friday to be received. Election estimates we have between 6,000 to 8,000 votes remaining to be counted since we had a heavy influx of ballots coming in all day yesterday until 7 p.m. We hope to have something finalized by the end of the day,” Rapson said earlier today.

In other local races, the incumbents won, some with smaller margins than others. The biggest vote-getters were the three nonpartisan magistrate judge contests. Close to 30,000 voters cast ballots in each of those races.

UPDATED 9:30 A.M. JUNE 10 — Incumbent Fayette County Commissioner Randy Ognio has not lost yet. His challenger Lee Hearn ended the night ahead of Ognio by 126 votes out of 3,780 counted in that race by midnight last night. Hearn led Ognio by 51.7% to 48.3%.

Now we hear that the Fayette County Elections Office is still counting paper ballots, meaning that the Ognio-Hearn contest has not been officially decided yet.

Fayette County Administrator Steve Rapson at 6:44 a.m. on Wednesday said elections board member Darryl Hicks estimated there were between 6,000 to 8,000 votes remaining to be counted due to the heavy influx of ballots coming in all day on election day.

Adding to the dilemma faced by ballot counters was the unusually large number of absentee ballots coming in. That number was estimated to be 16,000, due largely to the Covid-19 pandemic and large numbers of people wanting to vote absentee.

As of 9:30 on June 10, likely the only local contested race with a margin small enough to be overcome with new votes is still a cliffhanger. Ognio may be behind at the time of the tallies reported last night. But at this point — the morning of June 10 — the Ognio-Hearn race is still undecided.

UPDATE 12:25 a.m. — it took hours, but the Fayette County Elections Office posted the first and final vote totals of the night just minutes before midnight.

Fayette County Board of Education member Scott Hollowell won without a runoff in a three-way race. Eric Maxwell and Charles Oddo, both incumbent county commissioners, won reelection easily. And the three incumbent magistrate judges were victorious in their non-partisan races.

But it looks like Fayette Commission Chairman Randy Ognio met his match in a former commissioner he had beaten once before. Lee Hearn led Ognio by a little over a hundred votes, 51.7% to 48.3%.

This primary featured a number of novel difficulties including the novel coronavirus pandemic, novel two-part voting machines (a big touchscreen and a separate printer that produced a paper ballot), and a novel amount of voters who decided to cast thousands of paper absentee ballots for candidates in primaries for the Democrat and Republican parties and in the non-partisan judicial races.

Voter turnout was a little over 12%, with 10,852 ballots cast out of a registered voter total number of 88,758, with many thousands of absentee ballots uncounted.

In neighboring counties, eight of Spalding County’s 16 precincts had been reported by 10:30. In Coweta, the Georgia House of Representatives District 71 Republican Primary was shaping up to be a runaway for the incumbent Philip Singleton. He had tallied 1,506 votes (61.82%) to challenger Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison’s 930 votes (38.18%). And District 63 Rep. Debra Bazemore seems to have easily turned back Democrat Primary challenger Kenneth “Ken” Kincaid. Bazemore had 83.79% of the votes and Kincaid had 16.21%.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Good news Claude! I think I’ve got the number thing mostly solved. 29,700 total ballots cast – means 29,700 voters out of 88,758 registered for an actual “turnout” of 33%. That’s good and I’m proud of us as a county.

    The 29,700 is made up of the 10,852 from the first report, 16,000 absentee and mail in and maybe military (from the updated report) and 2 or 3,000 extra votes that are so far without a designation.

    That 12% turnout number was a total mistake – using 83% of the ballots compared to 100% of the registered voters, so just ignore that – it confuses us.

    Pretty good math isn’t it? Glad I could help.

  2. I don’t get it. You report “Voter turnout was a little over 12%, with 10,852 ballots cast out of a registered voter total number of 88,758,” and yet you report countywide Magistrate Judge votes as 12,260 for one candidate and 8,646 for the opponent, which makes a total of 20,906. Since you report this is with 83% of the vote counted, that indicates (when you divide by .83) about 25,188 votes were cast. There’s an obvious weakness about the math here.

    • Maybe its a typo with the judge votes actually 1226 – 864. Nah, that can’t be it. Or maybe the total ballots cast really is 10,852 and the actual vote total shown in each race are smaller because only residents in a district can vote for the candidate in that district. But then, the AM update says 16,000 absentee ballots were found or something – are they part of the 10,852 (mathematically impossible) or are they in addition to the 10,852? That would make the total turnout 26,852 which makes the magistrate judge numbers seem plausible – although why 6,000. people voted but didn’t vote for the 3 judges is a mystery.

      26,852 turnout gives us a % of 30% which is actually pretty good – better than 12%. Speaking of that, I question the poor turnouts reported in the past – like the 9% that produced our second-worst mayor. Were the absentee ballots counted in that turnout? If not maybe things are not as bad as we thought. Maybe “turnout” means different things to different people.

      Of course if they didn’t count the 16,000 absentees yet, all results could change. Although the update said 6,000 to 8,000 still being counted. Either way it looks like none of the printed results are valid or as Claude points out there is a strong need for a math review.

      And we can still wonder if that old assumption that they never count absentee ballots until the end only then if they need them is still in play. Lot’s of variables. And some hope for Randy Ognio.

  3. Sure wish I had voted! Thought my vote didn’t matter, that all incumbents were secure (because they are all doing a fine job), But I was wrong.

    Losing Randy Ognio by about 100 votes is awful. He is the most honest and hardest working county commissioner we have ever had. He will be missed and it is partially my fault. I’m embarrassed.