Republican Ron Thigpen became Columbia County's next commissioner and a more than $43 million bond proposal received full approval by voters.
Both were among the outcomes in Tuesday's general election, which garnered a 50.8 percent voter turnout, which was 15 percentage points greater than election officials had predicted.
"I was glad to see that,'' said Columbia County Board of Elections Director Debbie Marshall, adding that the turnout was about average for a non-presidential general election.
In the race to replace outgoing District 1 county commissioner Steve Brown, voters responded overwhelmingly to Thigpen over Democratic challenger Scott Nichols. Thigpen received 6,600 votes, or 74.99 percent, while Nichols garnered 2,195 votes, or 24.94 percent.
Thigpen said he felt his past county government experience and financial background as a banker helped secure his victory.
"I think the voters respected and were seeking a candidate with qualifications and exposure to the elements of government that I've had the good fortune to be exposed to so that I can in fact hit the ground running in January with economic development and planning issues and also the financial experience that I bring to the table,'' said Thigpen, who is a past county planning commissioner and current member of the county Development Authority.
Nichols said he felt his bid for commissioner was an uphill battle in a county that has a strong Republican base of voters.
"Obviously, if people just vote straight party lines, that's a long row to hoe for anyone who isn't of whatever persuasion,'' Nichols said. "... It definitely is an advantage to be on the Republican ticket (in Columbia County).''
Nichols said he was comparing his vote percentage to that of the governor's race.
"The quickest parallel would be to the look at the number of votes for Sonny (Perdue) and Mark Taylor,'' he said. "Anything more than that are crossover votes.''
In the governor's race in Columbia County, Perdue took 76.11 percent of the vote, or 23,968 votes, compared to Taylor's 21.82 percent, or 6,871 votes. That means Nichols received about 3 percent more of the vote from his district than Taylor received countywide.
Voters also approved all four county proposed capital improvement project categories - transportation, water, recreation and public safety - which will be paid for with the more than $43 million bond. That bond will be paid off during the next 13 years with a one-mill increase in property tax, meaning about an extra $40 a year in property tax on the average $100,000 home.
Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said he was thrilled with the outcome.
"I think it's just indicative of the fact that the majority of Columbia County looks after what's best for the county and doesn't pay any attention to the small group of negative people,'' he said. "And it was tremendous. I was just elated by the margin. I thought it would pass, but I thought it would be very slim.''
The category that received the most votes was transportation with 20,081 yes votes, or 66.94 percent. A total of 9,916, or 33.06 percent, voted no.
In second with the most votes was the public safety category with 18,916 voting yes, or 63.41 percent, and 10,916 voting no, or 36.59 percent.
The water category received 17,519 yes votes, or 58.49 percent, and 12,433 no votes, or 41.51 percent. The recreation category received 17,016 yes votes, or 56.76 percent, and 12,963 no votes, or 43.24 percent.
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