LAWRENCEVILLE - With fewer than 20 votes separating longtime school board member Louise Radloff from political newcomer Ravindra Kumar - and thousands of absentee ballots yet to be counted - a winner could not be declared in the Gwinnett County Board of Education race in District 5 early this morning.
As of 1:40 a.m., Radloff had 14,425 votes, while Kumar had 14,409, according to unofficial election results.
Radloff, who has served 36 years on the board, declined to comment on the race about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Likewise, Kumar, a teacher and researcher at the Morehouse School of Medicine, declined comment at 1:10 a.m.
At midnight, Gwinnett County spokesman Joe Sorenson said it would take a couple more hours to finish counting absentee ballots. Elections officials were still working to transfer votes on at least 10,000 flawed absentee ballots. The votes had to be duplicated on a correct ballot form, as the ovals on the original ballots were too thick to be read by optical scanning machines.
Radloff, the namesake of a middle school in the Meadowcreek cluster, previously said she sought re-election because there is still work she would like to accomplish.
"I really believe in kids and families and quality schools," she said in a previous interview. "It motivates me to see kids be successful."
Kumar has said one of his priorities would be to establish an after-school program to help raise student achievement. In a previous interview, he pledged to seek input from teachers before making decisions that would impact their work in the classroom.
Meanwhile, Republican incumbents Carole Boyce and Mary Kay Murphy appeared to have been re-elected to new terms.
Murphy, a Duluth resident who has served three terms, said she was honored the voters "have indicated their preference for the work we've done in the past 12 years.
"I ran for the school board seat as part of a larger commitment, and that is running for the future of public education," she said.
With absentee ballots yet to be counted at 1 a.m., Murphy had 20,692 votes, or 55 percent, to opponent Jane Hendrix's 16,664.
Hendrix, also a Duluth resident, said she ran an ethical and fair campaign.
"I think we ran a really honest and solid race," the Democrat said. "I'm proud of the race we ran. I think my district is very heavily Republican. I think we did a good job."
Boyce, a Dacula resident who has served one four-year term on the board, said she was "absolutely thrilled and delighted that the community would so clearly support education and want me to serve one more term."
Boyce claimed nearly 54 percent of the votes, as of 1 a.m. She defeated opponent Megan Kline, a Dacula High graduate, 33,342 to 28,699.
"I'm excited about it because we have so many things in the works and so many things down the road to improve student achievement," Boyce said. "Students will become the beneficiaries of the continued board support we have now."