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Bell misses runoff in school chief race

Both parties' races headed to July 22 runoff in crowded field

POSTED: May 21, 2014 1:40 a.m.

ATLANTA — Six Democrats and nine Republicans vying to become state schools superintendent were locked in tight primary contests Tuesday, with both races likely headed for a July 22 runoff.

In the Democratic primary, Valarie Wilson and Alisha Morgan were leading in unofficial returns with 74 percent of precincts reporting.

On the Republican side, Michael Buck and Richard Woods were in the lead. Primaries in both parties seem almost certain to head to a runoff as state rules require a candidate to receive 50 percent plus one vote to advance to the general election.

The seat is being vacated after a single term by Superintendent John Barge, who was one of two unsuccessful Republican primary challengers to Gov. Nathan Deal.

Gainesville attorney Ashley Bell trailed with 15.2 percent of the vote, a close fourth place. Bell bounced back and forth between third and fourth place for much of the evening.

“There was so many people in this race, I think ballot placement was big,” Bell said. “But we can’t be more proud of our showing in Hall County.”

Bell received 42.4 percent of the vote in Hall County, coming ahead of Woods with 13.75 percent.

“Northeast Georgia really came through for us,” he said. “We won Forsyth County, we won Cherokee County and it looks like we’re going to win Augusta. So the places where we campaigned hard, we saw a return on our investment.”

Bell, a local lawyer and former Hall County commissioner, said previously he wants to see more transparency in the College and Career Ready Performance Index, the state’s school evaluation system.

Bell is a Gainesville High graduate and has also attended Valdosta State University, the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University. He was elected county commissioner in 2008 and represented District 4 until 2012.

“Education is where our heart is,” Bell said. “So we’re going to continue to focus on doing what we can to continue to fight for education reform in this state.

“We leave tonight knowing that we have a winning message,” he added. “And no matter what happens tonight, we’re not going to leave that message.”

Times reporter Carly Sharec contributed to this story.



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