COVINGTON - The balance of power has shifted on the Newton County Board of Commissioners from Republican to Democrat with the ousting of Chairman Aaron Varner and election of Nancy Schulz to the District 3 seat Tuesday night.
Two-term incumbent Varner lost his seat to Democrat Kathryn Morgan, who took 56 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results posted by the Newton County Board of Elections.
A total of 39,401 votes were cast in the race. Morgan received 22,173 votes to Varner's 17,228, a difference of nearly 5,000 votes.
In the District 3 race, Democrat Nancy Schulz easily beat Keith Mitcham with 68 percent of the vote. Schulz had 7,636 votes to Mitcham's 3,581.
"I really want to thank the voters, and I want to thank my volunteers," Schulz said. "I also want to say what a good man and person of character and integrity Keith Mitcham is. It was a pleasure being in the race with him."
District 5 was the biggest nail-biter of the commission races with Republican Tim Fleming and Democrat Randy Vinson neck and neck most of the night. In the end, Fleming won by 247 votes, or 52 percent.
"I'd like to thank all the voters of District 5 for putting their faith in me. First and foremost, I'd like to thank my wife and my family and all my supporters and my campaign committee for their tireless efforts," Fleming said. "I couldn't have done it without them and I'm looking forward to hitting the ground running Jan. 1st."
Commissioner Mort Ewing won a third term, beating engineer Mark Patrick in the District 1 race with 64 percent of the vote.
Ewing garnered 5,416 votes to Patrick's 3,050.
"It's an honor to serve as district commissioner. I appreciate the opportunity the people in District 1 have given me the last eight years and I look forward to serving them another four years and I look forward to working with the new members of the Board of Commissioners and our new chairperson, Mrs. Morgan," Ewing said.
In other news, voters overwhelmingly passed an additional homestead exemption for senior citizens, with 32,944 yes votes and 5,789 no votes.
Residents age 65 and older whose annual income does not exceed $25,000 will receive an exemption in the amount of $30,000 of the assessed value of their homestead.
In the District 17 State Senate race, incumbent Sen. John Douglas, R-Social Circle, defeated Democratic challenger Rudy Cox with 59.7 percent of the vote in preliminary results Tuesday night. Douglas carried Walton, Spalding Rockdale and Henry counties, but lost in his home county of Newton by a slim margin of 526 votes.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.