Incumbent Brian Sloan has beaten challenger Mark Pettitt in the runoff for the Post 2 Hall County Board of Education seat.
Sloan garnered 50.48 percent of the vote to Pettitt’s 49.52 percent.
Of the 10,466 votes counted, just 100 votes separated the two Republican candidates.
“I was very, very nervous about (the runoff election),” Sloan said. “I kind of thought it might go the other way.”
In the weeks leading up to the runoff, the race seemed to center on the issue of school taxes.
Pettitt charged that Sloan had violated his pledge not to raise taxes when he voted for the school board budget last month that did not include a full rollback of the property millage rate.
But Sloan said he only promised not to raise the millage rate.
“Obviously, there are some party people who are not happy with me ...,” Sloan said. “But I have to vote my conscience and what’s best for Hall County schools. I had to be where I was willing to take the loss in order to vote my conscience.”
Sloan was just two votes shy in the May primary of avoiding a runoff, garnering 49.99 percent of the vote.
A primary election proceeds to a runoff whenever no single candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote plus one.
“That was the optimal time to win the race,” Sloan said. “It just didn’t happen. Since then, I’ve taken a lot of criticism for my vote to pass the new school board budget. But I don’t back off that one bit.”
Meanwhile, Pettitt narrowly made it to a runoff, beating a third candidate, local educator Traci McBride, by just seven votes.
Pettitt said he would not request a recount in the runoff even though the vote total between him and Sloan is less than 1 percent.
“Obviously, I’m a little disappointed,” Pettitt said. “But moreso than anything else, I’m extremely encouraged by the ground we made up. It tells me that we had a winning message.”
Pettitt, a political science major at the University of North Georgia and the owner of a small marketing business, said he hopes that message will resonate with the current school board.
“You’ve got to look at what we went against,” he added. “We were the young political novice facing a two-term incumbent. ... In two and four years from now, I think you’re going to see more challengers run for the Board of Education.”
And Pettitt might be such a challenger.
Indeed, while his first political campaign came up short, Pettitt’s aspirations appear not to have waned.
“I want to offer myself in any capacity to be able to make Hall County a better community for my future children,” he said. “We’re going to keep our options open for now. If there were an opportunity that presents itself, I would most certainly look objectively at it.”
Sloan, meanwhile, is focused on another four years on the school board, his third term representing South Hall.
Sloan said the long, tough campaign slog from the primary to the runoff has actually been beneficial.
“I believe it certainly has helped me,” he said, adding he’s more knowledgeable of the issues facing local schools.
Sloan said one of his primary focuses as a board member going forward will be improving school safety.