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Dunahoo, Banks to go another round for House seat
Runoff between top 2 candidates for Mills' post set for Dec. 6
Bobby Banks, a District 25 state representative candidate, watches election results Tuesday evening with wife Connie at their home in Flowery Branch. Banks is one of two candidates in the Dec. 6 runoff for the position. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

South Hall voters will go to the polls again Dec. 6 to make a final decision on James Mills' successor.

Of the seven candidates vying to fill the vacancy in the District 25 seat in the state House of Representatives, none received a majority of the votes cast in Tuesday's special election.

The candidate with the most votes, Emory Dunahoo Jr., only had an 81-vote lead as the unofficial results were tallied Tuesday.

Bobby Banks, a former Hall County Commissioner, still had enough votes to make it to the next round, an achievement he said he had a 95 percent chance of before polls closed Tuesday.

Still, Banks, who was defeated in a bid for re-election to the commission last year, sounded relieved after election results were posted. He said he was "surprised and honored" to make it in the runoff.

"I wasn't ‘sure' sure. There was still that 5 percent in there," Banks said. "In this day and time, you can't predict anything."

Dunahoo, who is seeking political office for the first time, had nearly lost his voice by the end of the night Tuesday.

For the last week, the poultry salesman has been fighting illness on the campaign trail.

And once he clinched a spot in next month's runoff, Dunahoo said he planned to take five days off from the campaign to recuperate - but not before he spent the next three hours doing a little work.

"This has been hard work," said Dunahoo. "... I've got to regroup on some stuff and let my body kind of heal up. It's been almost 24/7 and it's finally just kind of knocked me down."

Mills resigned from the statehouse in October, accepting a job from Gov. Nathan Deal on the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Nearly 5,000 people showed up to vote — about 13.9 percent of those eligible — in the special election to choose his successor Tuesday.

Seven men sought the seat, which Mills had held since first elected in 1993.

Of them, Dominic Ottaviano came in last place Tuesday with 5.3 percent of the votes, trailing Democrat Paul Godfrey, who received 7.5 percent.

Still, Ottaviano said he was "tickled to death" with the results. In the final days of the election, he turned the focus of his campaign toward keeping former Flowery Branch City Councilman Kris Yardley from making it to the runoff.

"I'm honestly happier than anyone that won tonight," he said. "... I'm just a happy little camper."

Yardley, who resigned from the council two years in to his first term to seek the House seat, ended up in fifth place Tuesday with 13.4 percent of the vote, behind builder Todd Reed and attorney William "Sonny" Sykes.

Yardley did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Dunahoo was not a clear winner in the race until the final votes were counted Tuesday night. Early results showed Banks in the lead with Reed, also a newcomer to politics, not far behind.

As the results of 46 percent of precincts were posted on the Secretary of State's website, Reed had only 17 fewer votes than Banks and a momentary chance at the runoff.

But by the end of the night, Reed fell 48 votes short of that second chance election.

"I'm really thankful for the votes that I got," he said. "... I was glad to see another good candidate make it in the top tier. I feel good about the top tier."