The 24th state Senate District will be in familiar hands after Tuesday's overwhelming victory by former long-time state Rep. Bill Jackson.
The district's previous state senator, Republican Jim Whitehead, of Evans, is now the front-runner heading into a July 17 runoff to fill the late Charlie Norwood's open 10th District congressional seat.
"I've been very blessed and very pleased. No doubt about that," Whitehead said of receiving 43.5 percent, or 23,570, of Tuesday's special election votes.
Because that percentage of the vote didn't exceed 50 percent, Whitehead must now face the second highest vote getter in a runoff. As of Thursday morning, it looked as though that opposing candidate would remain Republican Paul Broun, of Athens, who took 20.7 percent, or 11,203, of the vote, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.
Whitehead said he's already preparing for the runoff and is planning to take part in three broadcast debates between now and the runoff.
"I am delighted that we have the opportunity to move forward with three good debates that should allow all 10th District voters an opportunity to judge the candidates," Whitehead said in an e-mail. "This will total 11 debates that we have participated in during this election, and I can't recall any race with that many forums like these."
For Jackson, also a Republican, the debates are over. He easily defeated his competition, taking 62.6 percent, or 11,567, of the vote. Republican Brett McGuire finished in second place with 3,170 votes, or 17.2 percent.
Columbia County Democratic Party Chairman Scott Nichols took third place with 3,063 votes, or 16.6 percent. Republican Lee Benedict garnered 681 votes throughout the district for 3.7 percent.
Jackson, an Appling resident and eight-term state House veteran, said he's looking forward to making the most of his past experience as a state legislator.
"We've run real good all over the district. I'm really excited about that and humbled by that," he said, adding "I have a lot of friends up there (in the state Capitol), so I can be welcomed real fast ... I"m excited about going back."
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