Cobb voters head to polls for special election runoff

·3 min read

Jul. 13—MARIETTA — Voters in Marietta and Kennesaw flocked to the polls Tuesday to elect the next state representative from Georgia's 34th District.

Republican Devan Seabaugh, an executive with Metro Atlanta Ambulance, and Democrat Priscilla Smith, an artist and former educator, are facing off to replace former state Rep. Bert Reeves, who resigned from his seat earlier this year to take a job at Georgia Tech.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 7 p.m.

The first round of voting was held in June in a "jungle primary," where candidates from all parties ran against each other on a single ballot. The top two vote-getters, Seabaugh (47%) and Smith (25%) advanced to the runoff, since no candidate won a majority of votes.

The district has about 42,000 registered voters. About 30,000 people voted in the district in November 2020, when Reeves won reelection over Smith with 56% of votes.

Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight organization — and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler's new conservative counterpart, Greater Georgia — have poured money and volunteers into the race, with Fair Fight endorsing Smith and Greater Georgia backing Seabaugh. The race is the first that Greater Georgia has been involved in since its founding earlier this year.

Takeya Sakakura, a Smith voter, said he's been receiving campaign mail a few times a week.

"It definitely seems more active than previous elections like this ... maybe I'm just paying attention to it a little bit more," Sakakura said.

Derek Googe, a Seabaugh voter, said the same after voting — he's gotten lots of mail and seen plenty of campaign signs go up in his neighborhood.

For Harmony Rice, who declined to say who she voted for, it's been constant text messages. The Abrams and Loeffler groups also ran digital advertising campaigns.

"I just hope the right candidate wins," Rice said. "I was brought up in the time period, you know, you don't talk about politics and religion."

All of the voters who spoke to the MDJ outside Mercy Hill Church, a polling place on Mt. Cavalry Road, said their voting experience was quick and easy. There were hints that turnout for the runoff may be better than in the first round of voting.

"It's been very steady with, I think, several peaks of people coming in," said Sally Riddle, a poll watcher for Cobb County Democrats (A Republican poll watcher declined to be interviewed). "We've actually had some short lines occasionally, which is a good thing."

A poll worker told the MDJ that after five hours of voting, at noon the precinct had received 194 voters. The precinct received almost 400 votes total in the first round of voting. With seven hours left, then, it was on track for higher turnout.

And in two weeks of early voting, about 3,300 votes were cast, compared to about 2,800 in three weeks of early voting in the first round.

Jerry Shallenberger said he voted for Seabaugh because "he's a big family man, knows the area, and I think he'll help."

For Googe, it was a simple choice.

"(Seabaugh) holds a lot of the conservative values that I do," Googe said.

Couple Dale and Angie Gaddis declined to say who they voted for but rated well the voting machines in use. After voting electronically, voters get a printed ballot with their choice and a QR code. They then slip the paper ballot into a scanning machine.

"The scanning, you actually get to see that your vote counts, because the number goes up," Angie Gaddis said. "That's important."

As for predictions?

"Since the last election I quit predicting," Shallenberger said.

Googe was more confident, saying "Devan's going to run away with it, it's a very conservative district."

Dale Gaddis said it will come down to turnout.

"You certainly know the statistics the last time and who (Seabaugh) garnered the most votes," he said. "And with the other candidate, it depends on whether or not that party decides to show up at the polls."

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