VALDOSTA — James Burchett of Waycross has apparently won the runoff election, marking a massive political shift for the House District 176.
He beat Franklin Patten of Lakeland to fill Jason Shaw's former Georgia House of Representative seat, according to preliminary numbers from the Georgia Secretary of State website.
Burchett will now represent District 176, which covers portions of Lowndes, Lanier, Ware and Atkinson counties.
Shaw was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to serve on the Public Service Commission this year, forcing a special election for his seat on Feb. 12.
A runoff was necessary when no candidate received 50 percent plus one vote.
Not including provisional ballots, a total of 4,322 ballots were counted on Election Day Tuesday for the runoff.
There are 30,340 registered voters in District 176. Less than 15 percent of voters participated in the runoff election.
Burchett of Waycross garnered the most votes with 59 percent or 2,555 votes. During the special election, he received 1,494 votes.
Patten of Lakeland received 41 percent of the vote or 1,751 votes. This is only 300 more votes than what he received during the special election, which was 1,516 votes.
The race was overwhelmingly determined by Ware County's turnout. Burchett received 1,575 votes from his home county, which is more than Patten got from every county in the special election. Patten only received 4 percent of the Ware County vote or 73 votes.
In the county-by-county breakdown, Patten took Lowndes County and Lanier County with 67 percent and 77 percent, respectively. However, the turnout was lackluster with only 1,477 combined votes going toward the Lanier County resident.
Atkinson County went heavily toward Burchett with 67 percent or 413 votes and only 201 votes for Patten, who carried the county in the special election.
Turnout was a huge factor in the race. More than twice as many Ware County voters participated in the election than Lowndes County voters.
Less than 8 percent of Lowndes County registered voters voted compared to nearly 18 percent of Ware County registered voters who showed up at the polls.
The victory for Burchett means he will be the first Ware County resident representing District 176 in generations.
Burchett describes himself as "a family-oriented Christian conservative that wants to take your voice to the statehouse."
He is owner of J.D. Burchett Law and co-owner of the Burchett Company, according to his campaign statement. Burchett is a member of the Waycross Bar Association, Waycross Exchange Club and Waycross Chamber of Commerce.
He is a graduate of Leadership Waycross and served Ware County as chief building inspector for 10 years.
Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256