From a field of five, two candidates emerged from Tuesday's mayoral election to secure a spot on ballots for a Nov. 26 runoff race.
With all 72 precincts reporting at 1:20 a.m. today, former Augusta Mayor Ed McIntyre was the top vote-getter, securing 40 percent of the votes. The incumbent, Mayor Bob Young, was a close second, with 38 percent.
Pending certified election results, the two men will face each other in a runoff to determine who will be the mayor of Augusta.
Mr. McIntyre, who was listening to vote returns from a radio in his campaign's Greene Street headquarters, said early returns were a good indication that he was "still in the race."
"I think that what has been said in this election is the people do want a new leadership," he said shortly before leaving his headquarters for home.
Mr. Young, who was hoping to win without a runoff, said that turnout wasn't as good as he had hoped it would be and that it likely led to what he described as lower than expected numbers.
"We look forward to the challenge in three weeks," Mr. Young said.
To win without a runoff, one candidate would have had to receive at least 45 percent of the votes, which pundits have said would be difficult with so many people vying for the job.
Downtown businesswoman Bonnie Ruben secured the third-place slot, with 12 percent of the vote. Although she missed a runoff spot by 26 percentage points, her votes unexpectedly surpassed those of former state Rep. Robin Williams, who received only 8 percent of the vote. Augusta garden center owner Bobby Ross placed last, with 2 percent.
"I should have started sooner," Mrs. Ruben said late Tuesday after it became clear she would not make the runoff. She didn't announce her candidacy until the final day of qualifying in August, and political pundits dubbed her the "wild card" of the race.
"As I went into it and met people, my support grew slowly," she said. "I'm grateful for the support I received from all parts of the community."
The countywide race has been one of the most closely watched and widely debated, with four challengers seeking to unseat Mr. Young. Even as results trickled in, the top two candidates switched off for first place several times.
Mr. Young is seeking his second term in office and has run a campaign based largely on his accomplishments during the past four years, including restoring jobs at King Mill, coordinating a small-business panel and hiring City Administrator George Kolb.
Mr. McIntyre served as the city's first black mayor from 1982 to 1984 and twice tried unsuccessfully - in 1990 and 1998 - to reclaim the seat. He lost to Mr. Young four years ago in a runoff with 45 percent of the votes to Mr. Young's 55 percent.
Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or email@example.com.