With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Pitts led with 38.14 percent of the vote, followed by Waites at 33.88 percent. Sterling had just under 28 percent.
Pitts and Waites are Democrats, while Sterling is a Republican.
Pitts, a Buckhead resident who formerly served as Atlanta City Council president and a Fulton commissioner, was optimistic of his chances as early results came in.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity,” Pitts said at his Election Night party at the Buckhead cocktail bar Whisky Mistress. “I hope we prevail tonight, but if not we will prevail Dec. 5.”
He also said he wished the opponents in the race resorted to less “name-calling” and said he is focused on resolving the county’s tax digest dispute with the state, which has plunged school districts into crisis mode.
Waites, a former state representative from Atlanta, could not be reached for immediate comment.
Sterling, a Sandy Springs City Council member and political consultant, held a party at the restaurant Under the Cork Tree in that city, joined by such political figures as Mayor Rusty Paul. As results were slow to come in, Sterling later issued a concession statement on social media.
“Well, it appears tonight is not our night,” he wrote in part. “I am proud of the race we ran and am thankful for all of the great support we had.”
Sterling declined immediate on his plans, but said in the online statement he would continue to fight for his campaign promise of capping property tax increases. He has previously said he may expand his home beer-brewing business, Elbow Bend Brewing. He retained his City Council seat while running for Fulton chair, but his term expires in January and Jody Reichel won the race to replace him on Election Night.
In local results, Sterling dominated the vote in his hometown of Sandy Springs as well as in Pitts’ home neighborhood of Buckhead. However, Waites was winning several Sandy Springs precincts, including two of five in the City Council district Sterling represents, in the results with 98 percent of precincts reporting.
The candidates are running in a special election to fill the unexpired term of John Eaves, who resigned to make an unsuccessful run for mayor of Atlanta.
–John Ruch and Evelyn Andrews