Mayor Bob Young secured a second term in office by a 1,450-vote margin, narrowly defeating former Mayor Ed McIntyre in Tuesday's mayoral runoff election.
With 72 of 72 precincts reporting at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Mr. Young had 51.6 percent of the vote to Mr. McIntyre's 48.3 percent.
"We won," Mr. Young said after absentee ballots were reported in his favor. "That's what matters."
To win the runoff and a four-year term as mayor, a candidate had to receive a simple majority - at least 50 percent plus one of the total votes cast.
"I regret that we lost, but I hope the best for our city," Mr. McIntyre said. "The only regret I have is we didn't muster enough votes to win."
He didn't rule out another run for office, but said "no one's even talking about that now."
Mr. Young vowed to work with the legislative delegation to "redeem Augusta's pride.
"We're on the right track to repair what is broken and divided in our city government," he said.
As expected, absentee ballots favored the Republican candidate, which - even though the mayor's race is nonpartisan - was Mr. Young, said Ralph Walker, a professor emeritus of political science at Augusta State University.
The absentee ballots favored the incumbent by about a 2-1 ratio.
Dr. Walker had predicted that Mr. McIntyre would need to have a 600-vote lead prior to absentee returns to have a chance to win.
Of the 4,819 absentee ballots received by elections officials, 3,124, or 65 percent, were for Mr. Young, compared with 1,695 votes - 35 percent - for Mr. McIntyre.
Although elections officials reported that about 5,500 absentee ballots had been issued before Tuesday, many might not have been mailed back in time for Tuesday's election because of the short window of time between the general election and the runoff.
Campaign workers with Mr. McIntyre's camp said they had concentrated on increasing their absentee votes in the runoff - particularly from south Augusta voters, but apparently their efforts couldn't compete with those of Mr. Young, who distributed more than 33,000 absentee ballot applications for the runoff.
Voter turnout was 54 percent Tuesday - slightly less than the 60 percent voter turnout recorded during the general election.
Although votes were still split predominantly along racial lines, the vote was close primarily because Mr. McIntyre did far better at attracting votes in white precincts than Mr. Young did at finding support in black precincts.
Mr. McIntyre secured several white-majority polling places, including 51 percent of the vote at Bayvale Baptist Church, which has a 58.6 percent white voting population.
He also received 50 percent of the vote at Julian Smith Casino, which is 55.7 percent white.
Mr. McIntyre also dominated predominantly black precincts, securing more than 90 percent of the vote at several inner-city polling places, including Johnson Recreation Center, Second Mount Moriah Church and Eastview Recreation Center.
Mr. Young ran strong in the west Augusta and Hill area precincts, securing more than 70 percent of the vote at polling places such as First Baptist Church off Walton Way and National Hills Baptist Church on Washington Road.
Mr. McIntyre and Mr. Young went to Tuesday's runoff after none of five candidates in the Nov. 5 general election received 45 percent of the vote. Mr. McIntyre was the top vote-getter in that election, receiving 40 percent of the vote to Mr. Young's 38 percent.
Of the other three general election candidates - all of whom were white - two threw their support behind Mr. Young for the runoff.
Former state legislator Robin Williams and businessman Bobby Ross endorsed the mayor after they lost the general election. The third-place candidate, Bonnie Ruben, never endorsed either candidate.
Tuesday's election marked the second for which touch-screen voting machines were used. Only one machine of 445 had malfunctioned as of Tuesday afternoon, local elections officials reported.
The broken machine was located at the May Park Community Center polling place.
Runoff results were reported with relative ease compared with the Nov. 5 election, when final numbers weren't available until after 1 a.m. Elections officials said they spent the past three weeks "mastering" the new software in an effort to expedite returns.
Also, because the mayor's race was the only one on the ballots, the amount of data local officials had to process was greatly reduced, said Travis Doss, the assistant director of the Richmond County Board of Elections.
Staff Writers Tom Corwin, Johnny Edwards and Mike Wynn contributed to this report.
Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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