The Nov. 6 election brought some surprises to Sandy Springs, as some Republican challengers lost to Democratic challengers and the 6th Congressional District race remained too close to call.
House District 51
Democrat Josh McLaurin will succeed retiring Republican stalwart Wendell Willard in Sandy Springs’ House District 51 seat, according to unofficial results, after a bitter race where GOP leaders accused him of illegal campaign activities, and he threatened to sue for libel.
McLaurin eked out a defeat of Republican Alex Kaufman with 51.49 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial results reported by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. The narrow margin could lead to a challenge or other review.
“I’m honored to have received the trust of voters and hope to live up to their expectations for their representative,” McLaurin said in a written statement. “After meeting hundreds of HD 51 residents personally and having conversations about their concerns, I will advocate for progress on top priorities like healthcare, schools and transit.”
The impact on local politics is big. Willard not only served as the local state representative for 17 years, but also among the city’s founding figures and its longtime city attorney. McLaurin is an attorney who has never held elected office and moved to the area relatively recently. Not only that, but he was the target of various legal attacks by the local Republican establishment, including a residency challenge filed by former City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling, and more recent claims of election-paperwork wrongdoing that went out on campaign mailers.
“[Kaufman’s] campaign strategy was for lawyers affiliated with the state GOP to file complaints about me with government agencies, so he and the state GOP could send [a] negative mail saying I was ‘under investigation,’” McLaurin said. “The mail said this even though the State hasn’t taken any formal action on his allies’ complaints. Voters saw through the strategy.”
Kaufman said he expects the legal challenges against McLaurin to continue.
“As we’ve said all along, these are serious investigations and politicians should be expected to follow the law,” he said.
Kaufman believes the North Fulton races were heavily affected by “national issues” and strong Democratic candidates being at the top of the ticket.
“Obviously there was a blue wave in North Fulton and the entire northern arc of metro Atlanta,” he said in an email.
State House District 52
Republican incumbent Rep. Deborah Silcox held onto her seat, defeating Democratic challenger Shea Roberts.
Silcox was first elected to the seat in 2016, replacing longtime Republican Rep. Joe Wilkinson, who retired.
State House District 80
Democrat Matthew Wilson defeated Republican incumbent Rep. Meagan Hanson for the District 80 state House seat, which represents Brookhaven and a piece of southern Sandy Springs along Ga. 400.
State Senate District 32
Republican incumbent Rep. Kay Kirkpatrick fended off a challenge from Democrat Christine Triebsch.
State Senate District 56
Sen. John Albers, a Republican, defeated Democratic challenger Ellyn Jeager to keep his seat.
State Senate District 40
Republican incumbent Sen. Fran Millar was defeated by Democrat Sally Harrell, who pulled off a major upset in the once Republican stronghold district that includes Dunwoody and portions of Sandy Springs in the panhandle.
Millar had held the state Senate seat since 2011 after leaving his House seat that he first won in 1999.
Property tax relief measures
Voters approved the Fulton County homestead exemption that applies to seniors 65 and older and provides a $50,000 exemption from property taxes. It was cosponsored by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs).
Also approved was a school tax homestead exemption for Fulton County. This exemption, sponsored by Sen. John Albers, a Republican who represents part of Sandy Springs, caps increases in property assessments at 3 percent annually for the Fulton County School District portion of the tax bill.
Both pieces of legislation were drafted after Fulton County residents saw sharp increases in property assessments last year.
They both saw strong support from voters, receiving over 70 percent of the vote for school tax exemption and over 80 percent for the senior exemption, according to unofficial vote counts.
Sunday morning alcohol sales
Sandy Springs voters overwhelming approved a measure that will allow alcohol sales in restaurants on Sundays starting at 11 a.m. rather than the current 12:30 p.m.
The question received over 75 percent of votes for support, according to unofficial vote counts.
The Brunch Bill legislation was sponsored by state Rep. Meagan Hanson (R-Brookhaven/Sandy Springs).
6th Congressional District race
The 6th Congressional District race was too close to call the following morning after the Nov. 6 for Republican incumbent Rep. Karen Handel and her Democratic challenger Lucy McBath. Neither candidate had conceded the race.
–John Ruch, Evelyn Andrews and Dyana Bagby
This article has been updated with comments from Josh McLaurin