Crist wins Lilburn mayoral race

LILBURN -- After six months of giving his all to a campaign for mayor, Johnny Crist sat alone, just after 2 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall, waiting to hear the vote tally.

He defeated incumbent Diana Preston with a vote of 734 to 565, and exhaustion turned to relief.

"There was nobody to say anything to," Crist said of the late election returns. "Everybody went home, and my wife went to bed. What a victory."

Crist, a councilman who promised change in a city rocked by recent controversy, including a Department of Justice complaint of religious discrimination in a proposed rezoning involving a mosque, attributed his victory to hard work.

"Nobody ever knows what it's like to invest six months of your life into something where you are vulnerable to criticism, critique, praise and scorn. ... It was a cornucopia of emotions," said Crist, a pastor at The Atlanta Vineyard Church. "I felt God assigned me to the process. I was obedient."

Crist was one of three councilmembers vaulted to become mayor in Gwinnett cities Tuesday, joining Kelly Kautz in Snellville and Jimmy Burnette in Suwanee.

But trouble with the verification process led to a late night in Lilburn, where results were not available until the morning.

Preston did not return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.

Joining Crist in election wins in Lilburn were Thomas Wight, who defeated Teresa Czyz 626 to 584 for Crist's old council seat, and incumbent Scott Batterton, the top vote-getter in a race against three challengers.

A city referendum to allow package sales of beer and wine on Sundays was approved by a vote of 708 to 394.