UPDATE: Full Story
VALDOSTA – The Azalea City has a new mayor-elect.
Scott James Matheson, with 2,883 votes, officially defeated J.D. Rice, 2,787 votes, Friday by 96 votes.
Matheson said he felt a feeling of relief more than anything.
"You hate that there’s tension in the room, and I’m going to go sit with family over at the Wooden Nickel and we’ll all enjoy it amongst ourselves for a while," Matheson said. "Then, we’ll start reaching out to the other camp and reach out to J.D.”
Rice voiced confusion over the provisional ballot process and acknowledged Matheson's victory.
"The results are going to be what the results are. What's confusing to people is when the election officials do not explain the process," Rice said. "We get a document with three mail-in ballots. We got another document with 130 names for provisional ballots. When we get here, we were told only 88 ballots would be counted. I'm not saying anything irregular is happening. It's just uncertainty."
Dozens gathered Friday at the Lowndes County Board of Elections office to watch provisional ballots be counted by officials to determine who would be the next mayor of Valdosta; 130 provisional ballots and three mail-in ballots were delivered to the elections office Tuesday. 88 provisionals were counted by election officials.
Matheson and Rice competed in a runoff election Dec. 3. Matheson led by 123 votes after the Tuesday night election, but with 130 possible provisional ballots and three mail-in ballots, the results could not be considered official until all ballots were counted.
Election officials certified the election results 5:06 p.m Friday.
In the Nov. 5 municipal election, Rice received the largest share of votes, 34.84%. No one garnered the mandatory 50% plus one vote in the five-man mayoral race, leading to the runoff race between Rice and Matheson, who received the second-largest share of votes at 24.65%.
With 5,670 total votes cast, Rice cannot request a recount as to vote difference is more than 28 votes.
A recount can be called in Georgia by the losing candidate if the difference in votes is less than one-half of 1% of total votes, and the request is submitted in writing within two business days following the certification of the election results, according to Georgia House Bill 316.
“J. D. and I got to meet in this parking lot two days ago and remember how good of friends we were, so we’ll be fine. I hope everybody else will. Again, the outreach is going to be almost instantaneous,” Matheson said.
“I just want to decompress after this long run and enjoy family and enjoy the fact we’re going to move this town forward for the next four years.”
UPDATE: Scott James Matheson officially defeats J.D. Rice for Mayor of Valdosta, according to Lowndes County elections officials.
UPDATE: Scott James Matheson leads J. D. Rice 2,883 votes to 2,787 votes.
Results still unofficial
Lowndes County elections officials say 88 of the 130 provisional ballots will be counted in the mayoral contest between Scott James Matheson and J.D. Rice, with the possibility of two more of those voters come in with their IDs before 5 p.m. Friday.
Matheson leads Rice by 123 votes from the runoff election Tuesday.