State Senate District 9 candidate Mike Beaudreau waits for election results on Tuesday evening with friends and family at a home in Lilburn. (Photo: Chris Roughgarden)
A jury found him not guilty, sending him back to the General Assembly last year, but voters ended the tenure of Gwinnett’s longest-serving senator Tuesday.
Don Balfour, the Snellville man who has represented Gwinnett in the Georgia Senate for 22 years, came in last in a three-man primary, which sent challengers Mike Beaudreau and P.K. Martin into a July runoff for the Republican nomination.
“It’s an issue of how long folks serve in government that leads to complacency,” Beaudreau said of the expense report mistakes that brought Balfour legal troubles last year.
While Balfour was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, the ethical question came up among voters, he said.
“We need turnover. We don’t need people to serve decades and decades in office,” said Beaudreau, a former county commissioner who garnered the highest vote total Tuesday.
But he added that he is keeping Balfour in his prayers, just hours after news broke that the senator’s son had fallen critically ill while on deployment to Afghanistan.
“My thoughts today aren’t on an election,” Balfour said not long after polls closed. “My wife is beside herself. She knows all the worst possibilities. I can tell her that’s a one in a million chance, but that’s her only child; that’s her baby.”
Trey Balfour, a member of the 48th Brigade of the Georgia National Guard, is currently hospitalized in intensive care in Germany, the senator said. While he has not yet been diagnosed, Balfour said he has been able to speak to his son.
“He wants to be back in Afghanistan,” Balfour said of Trey, 27. “The heart of a soldier is hard to understand. … He’s alive and well and ticked off that he’s not in Afghanistan.”
Balfour said he is appreciative of the support he has received from constituents and fellow legislators throughout his son’s deployment. During the legislative session, Balfour was surprised with a Skype session with his son on the floor of the Senate, as the body celebrated Georgia National Guard Day at the Capitol.
“Every single day thousands of soldiers protect our freedoms in places we don’t know and may never know; my son is no different from any of them,” Balfour said.
In Lawrenceville, former City Councilman P.K. Martin celebrated with supporters.
Like Beaudreau, he said the support of volunteers was key to making the runoff and will be for getting out the vote again in July.
“It’s still the same message. It’s still about earning the trust of the people,” Martin said. “There is a true distinction in the race, and the records will speak for themselves.”
As of press time, Beaudreau’s vote tally was about 39 percent, while Martin brought in more than 32 percent of the central Gwinnett district. Balfour fell about 500 votes behind with 28 percent.
The runoff winner will face Democrat Timothy Swiney in the November general election.