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Smith, Kirby in runoff for House seat

LOGANVILLE -- A minister and a businessman appear to be headed to a runoff for a state House seat, after a special election Tuesday.

But with only six votes separating the second- and third-place candidates, a recount may be held to decide who will face Paul Smith in the March 6 runoff.

Smith, a minister, garnered more than half the votes in Gwinnett, but precincts in Walton County left him with about 41.9 percent of the total vote for House District 107, in the Loganville and Grayson area.

Candidates must receive at least 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff, so two candidates will square off on March 6 to determine who will replace Len Walker in the General Assembly.

"I've really been humbled by the outpouring of support," Smith said, attributing a great volunteer base to gaining 822 votes. "We ran to win, and it looks like our efforts have paid off."

As of unofficial results Tuesday, businessman Tom Kirby came in second place with 465 votes, only six more than former Walton School Board member Mark Banks. Former Loganville Councilman Michael Lynch received 216 votes.

"I'm breathing again," Kirby said. "It looks like we made the runoff. ... We get 30 more days of campaigning, so that's great."

According to state election law, an automatic recount will occur since the votes are less than 1 percent apart, but Kirby said he was confident the results would not change, thanks to electronic voting machines.

Banks said he would reassess for July, when districts move because of Census changes. "I have no regrets. I stayed true to my values," Banks said.

Both Smith and Kirby said the March 6 runoff would have a different character, since it will be on the day the state votes in the presidential preference primary. That would likely bring a much larger turnout to the polls.