Former state Representative Bob Smith defeated incumbent Watkinsville Mayor Dave Shearon by two votes on Tuesday in an election that brought out 39.6 percent of the active registered voters in the city.
Incumbent Council Member Connie Massey defeated Jonathan Kirkpatrick, with Massey receiving 52.8 percent of the vote.
City voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative allowing the Council to pass an ordinance adding an extra 90 minutes to the time restaurants can serve alcohol on Sunday, with 70.9 percent of the electorate voting Yes.
Smith led among those casting votes in early voting and by absentee ballots, 209 to 189, but Shearon received 211 votes in Tuesday voting, to 193 for Smith.
One of the 804 persons who voted wrote in a name, and one person did not vote in the mayoral race.
The final tally was 402 votes for Smith and 400 for Shearon.
Oconee County Director of Elections and Registration Fran Leathers said her office will do a recount of the votes before certifying the results. (Leathers told me in an email message at 10:33 a.m. on 11/6/2019 she "will not be conducting a recount unless Mayor Shearon requests it.")
|Smith At Election Forum 10/3/2019|
Voting on Tuesday at the sole voting place, Watkinsville City Hall, as well as in early voting, was via voting machines, but the 16 absentee ballots by mail were counted by a scanner.
Leathers said her office mailed out 23 absentee ballots, but two of those persons did not mail in the ballot and showed up to vote at City Hall.
Five of those who were sent an absentee ballot did not return it by the closing of polls on Tuesday. Those five ballots will not be counted, Leathers said.
Of the 804 ballots cast, 399, or 49.6 percent, were cast either in early voting or by mail, and 405, or 50.4 percent, were cast on election day.
The 804 voters were 39.6 percent of the city’s 2,029 active registered voters.
|Shearon At Election Forum 10/3/2019|
In 2017, 527 Watkinsville voters cast a ballot, or 28.6 percent of the 1,842 active registered voters at that time, though only 487 voted in one of city races.
Shearon ran for office the first time in 2017 and was unopposed. Voters in the city and county also chose Georgia House of Representatives candidates in that election.
In 2018, when a full range of state candidates were on the city and county ballot, 1,464 voters, or 73.9 percent of the 1,982 active registered voters, cast a ballot.
In 2018, three Council Posts (but not the mayor) were on the ballot, and 1,306 voters were cast in the most contested of those races.
The Watkinsville mayor and five Council members serve two-year terms.
The Watkinsville mayor and Council races are nonpartisan, but Smith, a real estate agent, told Oconee County Republicans he was running as a Republican and said Democratic Party leaders would be watching to see how well a former Republican state Representative did in the race.
Shearon, a retired businessman, did not identify himself with either party.
Neither Massey nor Kirkpatrick picked party labels, though Kirkpatrick did speak at the most recent Oconee County Republican Party meeting. Massey turned down an invitation to speak, according to Steven Strickland, Oconee County Party chair.
Massey is a picture framer; Kirkpatrick is a retired U.S. State Department official.
In 2017, Massey, also running as an incumbent, received 64.1 percent of the vote, to 35.5 percent for Wade LaFontaine. The remainder of the votes were write-ins.
Brian Brodrick ran unopposed for Council Post 1 on Tuesday, receiving 658 votes, or 98.1 percent of the vote. Thirteen voters write in a name rather than vote for Brodrick.
Brodrick also had been unopposed in 2017, when he received 426 votes (98.2 percent), and eight voters wrote in another name.
Smith has had a stormy relationship with members of Council, where he has been denied most recently a demolition permit for a building on his property.
Brodrick, in a letter published in The Oconee Enterprise last week, did not mention Smith by name but said “At least one local candidate is focused on making the upcoming mayoral election a partisan affair.”
“As you make your decision about who to support,” Brodrick wrote, “ask yourself this: do I want a Republican, a Democrat or a candidate who will put the best interests of Watkinsville citizens and businesses ahead of his or her political party?”
The initiative on the ballot on Tuesday, referred to Brunch Bill referendum, will allow the Council to pass an ordinance giving restaurants in the city the ability to sell alcohol stating at 11 a.m., rather than the current 12:30 p.m.