Wheeler won 2,268 votes (54%), and Larry Darnell got 1,903 votes (46%). There are 55,290 registered voters in the post, making turnout about 8 percent.
“We like it,” Wheeler said after learning his campaign will advance. “It’s better than losing. It’s rewarding and we’re happy,”
The 57-year-old retired Cobb Schools administrator, who occasionally substitutes as a school administrator, also thanked his supporters in the district, which includes Harrison, McEachern and Hillgrove high schools.
“The people that have supported me are gold and I cannot thank them enough,” he said. “They are super people and they’ve done more than you can ask.”
Wheeler was also the top vote-getter in the three-person field on July 31. He spent Tuesday visiting with constituents and attended a homeowner’s association meeting last night.
“We had the TV going and the computers … we’ve been following it all (Tuesday) night,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he has a lot of respect for his GOP opponent, Darnell.
“He ran a good campaign. We have a very similar ideas on a lot of things and it’s too bad that there’s not room for two of us,” he said.
He has raised $3,420 overall in his campaign and $1,470 since the July 31 primary.
Wheeler, who retired from Cobb in 2008 after teaching and coaching at Pebblebrook High for 17 years and being an administrator at McEachern High for nine years, has been an outspoken critic of Teach For America since announcing his candidacy in late May. “It makes no sense to offer positions to recent college graduates who have not been trained when we are cutting back our current staff,” he said previously. “We already have quality people in these positions. We need to support them and not slap them in the face.”
He also previously said that the school district’s move to send nearly 150 educators to the Model Schools Conference in Orlando in late June was a “PR disaster.”
“We need to look at better ways which are less costly to achieve our goals,” Wheeler said.
Darnell, 60, said that he was disappointed with the turnout, but that he wasn’t surprised by the close race.
“We almost split the precinct down the middle,” Darnell said while looking at results Tuesday night.
Wheeler won 13 of the 26 precincts, and Darnell won 12. They tied in the other precinct.
“From that standpoint, it was pretty close,” he said. “I’m glad for him and I hope he does well against (Bartlett).”
He also said this wouldn’t be the last time voters would see his name on a ballot.
“I’m going to stay plugged in with the school system and see what’s going on and see how (Wheeler) does,” Darnell said. “I’m hopeful he will win in November and if he does, I’ll watch to see if I’d want to go against him again, but if he is doing good, I won’t.”
Darnell traveled for work on Tuesday, but was with his wife, Karen, last night. He raised about $1,400 since announcing his candidacy in May and around $300 since the July race.
His main stance has been unity among the board and the school community.
“It seems like the whole board is in it for themselves, a lot of bickering back and forth,” he said in a previous interview. “I want to be the one to make it better.”
The first-time candidate is a general contractor who was pulled into Bartlett’s post after Georgia legislators realigned the district. His late father, Jack Darnell, served on the Cobb School Board in the 1960s and 1970s.
Wheeler will face Bartlett in the general election on Nov. 6. She was first elected in 2008, but the district was reapportioned this year to include more of conservative west Cobb.