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Jeffares takes 17th Senate; Welch in 110th

COVINGTON -- Former Henry County Commissioner Rick Jeffares handily beat political newcomer Todd Hilton in the race for the Georgia Senate District 17 seat in the general primary Republican runoff Tuesday night.

With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Jeffares had garnered 9,807 votes, or 61.7 percent, versus Hilton's 6,090 votes, or 38.3 percent.

Jeffares could not be reached for comment as of presstime. He will face Democrat Jim Nichols in the Nov. 2 General Election.

Despite his loss, Hilton, an educator in Social Circle, said he was proud of his campaign. He took Newton County with 52.05 percent of the vote, but his showing wasn't as good in the rest of the district.

"I am very proud of my supporters, very proud of all the people standing behind me. I'm happy for Rick. He ran a good race. This is not the last you've heard of Todd Hilton. I'm not ruling anything out," he said.

The race for the 17th Senate District was opened up when Republican incumbent John Douglas announced he would not seek re-election and instead would vie for the open Public Service Commission District 2 seat.

Douglas carried his home Newton County by a wide margin in his race against Tim Echols of Athens, netting 68.01 percent of the vote. But statewide he didn't fare so well. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Douglas was at 47.7 percent to Echols' 52.3 percent.

"We worked hard and ran a good, honorable campaign and it didn't work out the way we would have liked, but again, we did very well in Newton County ... and Rockdale County," Douglas said. "We're very, very grateful to the home folks for their support. It appears as though we will be returning to private life, at least for the time being. I've spent most of my adult life in public service and I don't intend to go anywhere. I'll be here looking for possibilities."

Echols will face Democrat Keith Moffett in November.

In other news, Andrew J. Welch III beat Lee Spahos in the Republican runoff for Ga. House District 110, which includes Newton, Henry and Butts counties. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Welch had 54.2 percent of the vote. Welch also took Newton County, with 60.91 percent of the vote. He will face Democrat Rudy Cox in November.

Also, in the Democratic runoff for Georgia House District 95, incumbent Toney Collins lost to Pam Dickerson. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Dickerson had taken 53.6 percent of the vote.

"I still have six more months to keep working for the people of the 95th District and keep moving and keep doing what I can. I am a person who loves to help ... and I think I've done that," Collins said, pointing to health care legislation he helped pass.

"That's one thing I did, making sure that everyone had quality health care and that our community grows economically," Collins said. "I just thank the people of the 95th for electing me to serve for these last two years."

The district covers portions of Newton, Rockdale and Gwinnett counties. Dickerson won Newton with 53.13 percent of the vote. She will face Republican Rodney Upton in November.

A very close race between Republican gubernatorial candidates Nathan Deal and Karen Handel was too close to call at press time. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Deal had a slight lead with 50.2 percent of the vote while Handel was at 49.8 percent.

Locally it was a tight race as well, but in the end, Deal won out with 51.87 percent of Newton County's vote. The winner will face Democrat Roy Barnes in November.

In Newton County, voter turnout was at 12.79 percent, with a total of 7,766 out of 60,721 registered voters casting ballots. All results are unofficial and incomplete until they are certified by the Secretary of State's Office.