As of midnight, Democrat Monique Sheffield and Republican Fitz Johnson led in their races to succeed outgoing members of Cobb County’s governing board.

Meanwhile, Kyle Rinaudo led in the race to see which Democrat will take on state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, in November’s general election.

According to Cobb elections director Janine Eveler, there were still about 600 outstanding absentee ballots as of midnight out of a total of roughly 31,000.

At least 22,000 people voted in-person, a figure that includes those who cast a ballot early and on the day of the election.

All votes are unofficial until certified by the elections board on August 20.

FIGHT FOR EAST COBBRetired businessman Fitz Johnson held a narrow lead over his opponent, businessman and former county Planning Commissioner Andy Smith, late Tuesday night.

With 100% of precincts reporting, Johnson had 4,853 votes, or 50.43%, to Smith’s 4,770 votes.

Johnson trailed early in the night.

“It’s early. Of course, you’d rather be ahead, but we’re not, and that’s OK,” Johnson said as the first of the day-of results started coming in. “We did everything that was in our plan, executed our plan, and we just hope for the best.”

Smith did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday evening.

Smith and Johnson, both Republicans, are vying to succeed retiring Commissioner Bob Ott, also a Republican, whose district encompasses parts of east Cobb, Cumberland, Vinings and Smyrna.

Although Ott’s district has long been a Republican stronghold, the winner of Tuesday’s runoff may face a stiff challenge from Democrat Jerica Richardson in November. Although Richardson was the only Democrat to qualify for the race, she received more votes in the June 9 primary than Smith, Johnson and their primary opponent Kevin Nicholas combined.

Johnson eked out a narrow lead against Smith and Nicholas in the primary. He is considered the favorite of the county’s Chamber of Commerce, according to Cobb Republican Party Chairman Jason Shepherd.

Although Johnson was sidelined for a month this spring by the coronavirus, he has been a prolific fundraiser, far outpacing his opponents, and he has received donations from several business executives in the county, including Wellstar Health System executive vice president Leo Reichert, chief financial officer James Budzinski and Kennestone head Mary Chatman; Jim Rhoden, chairman of Futren Hospitality; and Eric Widner, operations manager at Loud Security.

In a June interview, Smith credited his advancement to the runoff in part because of his experience serving on the Planning and Neighborhood Safety commissions and the Transit Advisory Board. The Planning Commission, he said, is “much closer to what a commissioner is spending the majority of his time on.”

Ott appointed Smith to the Planning Commission but made no endorsements in the primary or runoff.

FIGHT FOR SOUTH COBBSheffield, a real estate agent and former member of the county Board of Zoning Appeals, is facing activist and businesswoman Shelia Edwards to represent south Cobb on the Board of Commissioners.

With 91% of precincts reporting at midnight, Sheffield had 4,812 votes, or 51.15%, to Edwards’ 4,595 votes.

The seat is currently held by Democrat Lisa Cupid, who is not seeking reelection. Last year, she announced she would seek higher office and run for the position of board chair, a seat currently occupied by Republican Mike Boyce.

Tuesday’s runoff will decide south Cobb’s next county-level representative, as no Republican qualified to run for the seat.

Edwards edged Sheffield in the June 9 Democratic primary, with about a quarter of the vote. In the weeks since, several community activists, including former head of the Cobb NAACP Deane Bonner and housing rights crusader Monica Delancy — herself a candidate in the primary — endorsed Edwards.

Sheffield, in turn, has nabbed the endorsement of many within the county’s Democratic Party establishment, such as state Reps. Teri Aneluwicz, D-Smyrna; Erica Thomas, D-Mableton; and Erick Allen, D-Smyrna. Cupid, who appointed her to the Board of Zoning Appeals, came out strongly in support of Sheffield during the runoff, campaigning on her behalf.

Sheffield has cast herself as ready to hit the ground running. Serving on the Board of Zoning Appeals has given her insight into one of county commissioners’ primary responsibilities, she said, and allowed her to forge relationships with county staff and other key figures.

Edwards said her years of community activism have prepared her for the role of county commissioner. She has repeatedly said south Cobb has been treated as the county’s “dumping ground” for businesses that are not tolerated in other parts of the county, such as dollar stores and warehouses. She boasts about having successfully fought off an attempt to place a waste transfer station in the district several years ago, and has accused Sheffield of taking “dirty money” for having accepted a donation from an attorney who represented the transfer station.

FIGHT FOR ACWORTH and KENNESAW

With 100% of precincts reporting, Rinaudo had a commanding lead over opponent Lisa Campbell, with 1,284 votes, or 53.86%, to Campbell’s 1,100.

The winner will face state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, in November. Setzler has held the seat since 2005 and did not face a primary challenger in June.

Campbell, a consultant and small business owner, led the three-way June 9 primary with 40% of the vote. Rinaudo, a music teacher, barely made it to the runoff, edging former public health scientist Elizabeth Webster by only 17 votes.

Webster requested a recount, but it did not change her standing in the election. She has since vowed to run in November as a write-in candidate, saying the district’s voters “deserve a better choice than a woman who has trouble verbalizing what inequality is, who has only lived in the House District for 3 years and boasts an Instagram job description and a 24-year-old man with no meaningful experience and is running because he feels it will boost his law school application.”

Rinaudo, who lost a bid for the same seat in the 2018 Democratic primary, is already enrolled in law school. He said he “hopes all Democrats and Progressives will unite behind the eventual Democratic nominee” and described his age as an asset.

“We need our generation’s voice in local government as we work to address our community’s pressing issues for the coming decades, from climate change to education access to affordable healthcare,” Rinaudo said in a statement to the MDJ last month.

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