KENNESAW — Republican Devan Seabaugh appears to have easily won Georgia’s House District 34 race with 63% of the vote, according to unofficial results posted on the Georgia Secretary of State’s website Tuesday night.
The runoff saw Democrat Priscilla Smith capture 37% of the vote, or 3,296 votes to Seabaugh’s 5,604, the results show.
Votes roll in
Seabaugh claimed victory at about 9:15 p.m. as a crowd filled with family and friends cheered at the Governors Gun Club in Kennesaw.
Standing next to his wife, Beth, and backed by a group of campaigners in front of a massive, outstretched American flag, Seabaugh thanked his family, supporters, the Cobb GOP and others for their part in his victory.
He told the MDJ his campaign was one of “rock star” status. They’d knocked on about 5,400 doors and made over 5,000 phone calls.
“I think we really communicated with our voters, and I think the key in this was to get people out to vote,” Seabaugh said. “We’re in the middle of summer — summer vacation’s going on. We just turned them out to vote, and we’ve got to get them out again.”
Among those who turned out to his election night party were former U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs, Cobb Republican Women’s Club head Nancy Couch, Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman John Loud, members of the Development Authority of Cobb County, Donna Rowe and Clark Hungerford, Cobb Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, former Commissioner Bob Weatherford and philanthropist Jay Cunningham.
Smith, an artist and former educator, watched the results come in at Kennesaw’s El Taco Azteca with a group of supporters including state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, and state Rep. El-Mahdi Holly, D-Stockbridge.
When she arrived at the restaurant to watch the results come in earlier in the evening, Smith repeatedly told her supporters and campaigners how proud she was of them for their hard work.
“We made a miracle happen, win, lose or draw,” she said.
Smith told the MDJ her campaign had knocked on more than 6,000 doors, raised over $80,000 and bought radio ads, billboards and “everything in between.”
As for what she wished could have gone differently, Smith said it was difficult to talk to as many people as she would have wanted with less than a month to prepare between the June 15 primary and Tuesday’s runoff election.
‘We won’t go silently’
After the results became clear, Smith posted a picture of herself surrounded by a crowd of supporters on the restaurant’s patio, thanking community and campaign members alike.
“I just want (to) say thank you. Thank you for the outpouring of support these past 4 weeks. I’ve loved every minute of this campaign: being able to talk with our community face-to-face and hear so many diverse voices; being able to speak the truth loudly and clearly; and having such an amazing group to work with,” the post read. “Thank you my Beautiful Gang, you have made this such a strong and wonderful campaign, I couldn’t be prouder. We may not have won, but we made our message clear: we won’t go silently. We’ll continue fighting for a better Georgia for everyone.”
Earlier in the evening, Smith told the MDJ she’d been an active and engaged citizen before she ran for office, and though she wasn’t sure what the future might be, she’d continue her engagement in some form.
Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight organization — and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s new conservative counterpart, Greater Georgia — poured money and volunteers into the race, with Fair Fight endorsing Smith and Greater Georgia backing Seabaugh. The District 34 race is the first that Greater Georgia has been involved in since its founding earlier this year.
Though his campaign and Greater Georgia did not coordinate, Seabaugh said he was grateful for the group’s support and that of Loeffler.
“Any time we’re getting Republicans to the polls, it helps,” he said. “We appreciate everything that they do.”
For her part, Smith said Fair Fight and Abrams’ support played a “huge role.”
Following the results, Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs poked fun at Fair Fight’s investment in the race.
“Stacey Abrams, we love you spending your dollars in Cobb but we are still gonna keep beating you,” Grubbs said in a post on her Facebook page.
Georgia’s 34th House District, which includes Kennesaw and part of Marietta, was vacated this spring when Reeves, a Republican, resigned to take a job at Georgia Tech.
Turnout higher than previous elections
Turnout in the runoff election was higher than that of the June 15 “jungle primary” that preceded it. None of the five primary candidates received the required 50% plus one vote to avoid a runoff in the race to succeed former state Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta. Seabaugh and Smith were the top two vote-getters, triggering Tuesday’s runoff election.
Of the district’s about 42,000 registered voters, 8,900 cast ballots, according to the secretary of state’s unofficial election results. That means about 21% of those eligible voted in the runoff election.
The June 15 primary saw 7,092, or just shy of 17% of eligible voters, exercise their right.
Both the District 34 races saw higher turnout than the last special election held in Cobb in 2011. Only 7.5% of registered, eligible voters went to the polls in that race.
Asked to respond to the higher turnout in a special election runoff than in the special election primary — both affairs that typically see abysmal voter turnout — Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler told the MDJ “nothing in elections surprises me anymore.”
“I was happy with the higher turnout, both parties did a lot of work to contact potential voters,” Eveler said.
Of the 8,900 votes shown on Cobb Elections’ special election runoff report provided to the MDJ, 5,360 were cast on Election Day, 3,355 during advance voting and 185 were absentee by mail.
There are still nine provisional ballots that could be counted in Tuesday’s runoff, and one ballot that had been rejected was counted after the voter “cured” it, according to Eveler. When elections workers can’t match a signature on an absentee ballot or can’t tell what the voter marked as their selection, the ballot must be “cured” by the voter showing up to confirm the vote by a designated deadline.
Tuesday’s results will not be official until the Cobb Board of Elections and Registration certifies the election on Monday at 3 p.m., Eveler said.
Seabaugh said when he’ll be sworn in is still being coordinated. The swearing in must take place after the election’s certification, and State House leaders are in discussion about the date.
Seabaugh will serve the rest of Reeve’s term, which runs through the first Monday of 2023, at which point the term will expire and Seabaugh will be up for election once again.