by Ryan R Rees
It’s a two-man race between Dallas Miller and Leon Watkins for the vacant Post 1 Gilmer County Board of Commissioners position.
Miller and Watkins out-polled five other challengers in the Nov. 5 election and the winner will be decided in a Dec. 3 election.
Miller collected 1,136 votes, or 40.23 percent, while Watkins had 820 votes — 29.04 percent.
Total votes cast were 2,847, or 20.1 percent of the 14,136 registered county voters.
Both candidates expressed concern about the turnout for the Dec. 3 voting. All registered voters are eligible to vote Dec. 3, including those who did not vote in the Nov. 5 election.
The county registrar’s office said no official time frame has been determined for early voting, but it could begin as early as Monday, Nov. 18. Early voting at the registrar’s office in the county courthouse would end Nov. 27 because of the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
The Dec. 3 voting will be held at all 13 precinct sites again.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” Miller said of getting into a runoff. “I hoped to get into it (the runoff) but didn’t know for sure.”
Watkins said, “I felt going in like there would be a runoff. At 5 p.m., I thought it (the results) would be reversed but I drove by the Boardtown election site and there was one voter. I then went over to north Ellijay and there was no one there. I said to myself, ‘Leon’s in trouble.’”
“I think the debate was a plus for me. People got to know me from the debate,” Miller said.
“I think being involved by going to the meetings also helped. Why would people vote for someone not involved?” he added.
“We need to do things better and we can do it,” Miller added. “There’s no big things right now like a courthouse or civic center — just a lot of little things need attention. We need to change the mentality of how things are done.”
Watkins said, “I’m going to give it all I got. It’s all I can do. I want to do a good job for the county and try my best. I’m a winner either way.
“I’m going to be making a lot of phone calls and meeting more people. They need to get enthused and vote,” he noted.
Miller said he didn’t plan to do anything differently in the next three weeks.
“I’ll continue my newspaper advertising and getting out and meeting people,” he said.
Miller had strong support from voters in the Ellijay, north Ellijay and Cartecay precincts while Watkins carried the areas in the northern part of the county.
Watkins said he hopes to gain voters who voted for Howard Green, who finished third with 343 votes, but expects his opponent to pick up votes from supporters of fourth-place finisher Jerry Tuso, who had 234 votes.
Both candidates ran as Republicans.
Watkins pointed out, “I hope I get some votes from the Democrats. They haven’t had anyone to vote for in a long time.”