Peachtree City mayor race going to runoff, ESPLOST passes on election night

As quickly as the final vote tally flashed across the screen, Vanessa Fleisch’s mind was onto December. Inside the Braelinn Golf Club, upon hearing the percentage of votes she accrued, Fleisch revealed a small sliver of disappointment before rejuvenating her supporters for another run at the Peachtree City Mayor in less than a month. The Peachtree City mayoral election, a three-person race, has been whittled down to two, with a runoff between Fleisch and Eric Imker already imminent on Dec. 5.

Fleisch finished with 43.25 percent and Imker corralled 30.92 percent. Dar Thompson took in 25.66 percent.

Peachtree City Council Post 3 is also headed to a runoff. Kevin Madden took 40.14 percent and will battle former mayor Harold Logdson, who got 32.39 percent. Sarah Toussaint finished third with 27 percent.

Incumbent Terry Ernst ran unopposed for Peachtree City Council Post 4.

Voters overwhelmingly approved extending the ESPLOST with 63.84 percent of more than 11,000 votes in support and 36.16 percent in opposition.
ESPLOST 3 will be the continuation of the one-cent sales tax dating back to the passing of ESPLOST 1 in 2008. The current version will not go into effect until the ESPLOST 2 hits its collection cap in an estimated March 2019. ESPLOST 3 will bring in a projected $145 million with the bulk going facility additions, renovations, and improvements.

Rich Hoffman will be a new face on the dais after winning the race for Fayetteville City Council Post 4. Hoffman won with 60.57 percent, followed by Brett Nolan with 24.14 Gha-Is Bashir Paige with 14.85. Incumbents Scott Stacy (Post 3) and Paul Oddo (Post 5) both ran unopposed.

In the Town of Tyrone, incumbent Ken Matthews fended off challenger Eric Woods, Sr. for his Post 3 spot. Matthews finished with 66.11 percent and Woods finished with 33.4 percent. Incumbent Gloria Furr ran unopposed for Post 4.

In the Peachtree mayoral race, Imker chose not to stay up late and wait out the results. He had a meeting at the Masonic Lodge, then would head home.
“Supporting my brothers and children’s charities is more important than me just sitting around and waiting,” Imker wrote in an email, adding he would call it a night afterwards and find out the results Wednesday morning.

Thompson, the third place finisher, said those who voted for him understand that there are issues that aren’t being addressed. As someone who’s heavily involved in the community, Thompson is concerned about the future of Peachtree City.

“I see a direction the city is going, and, in my opinion, it’s not a very good direction,” Thompson said.

As of Tuesday night, Thompson was not yet ready to announce which runoff candidate he will be supporting.

Inside the Braelinn Golf Club, the suspense built up as Fleisch and her team awaited the results.

7:56 p.m. 
It’s shortly before the 8’o’clock hour. Fleisch is about to see the voting results for early voting. “This is as antsy as I’ve gotten all day,” she says to the others at her table. 

Behind her, on a mounted television, Fox News delivers updates on the highly publicized Virginia governor’s race. That election would be decided 15 minutes later, while the Peachtree City mayoral election would last a bit longer. 

Three “Reelect Vanessa Fleisch for Mayor” signs line the windows to the golf course. Outside, men clad in polos and button downs play cornhole in the moonlight. Inside, the conversation is light, and the current Peachtree City Mayor is keeping her eyes fixated on her laptop. She sees her first update. 
“After early voting we’re at 49 [percent],” Fleisch said. “I was hoping for better.”

8:11 p.m.
The group surrounding Fleisch takes a moment to glance at some of the other races. Several council candidates around the county ran unopposed, but the one in attendance is still congratulated nonetheless. 

“Mr. Unopposed ran a tough race,” Fleisch says to Ernst, who locked up Peachtree City Post 4 with 98.32 percent of the vote.

8:21 p.m. 
Murmurs among the crowd of more than 30 Peachtree City residents suggest a runoff is expected. It’s still much too soon make a final declaration, but Fleisch knows all too well how to handle such an outcome. 

“In many ways, it’s the same because there’s a lot of buildup and anticipation and then you have to go through another month,” Fleisch said.

During a runoff in December 2013, Fleisch won over Harold Logsdon with 72 percent of the vote.

8:53 p.m.
The numbers shift, for the first time since the early voting numbers were released, as nine out of 12 precincts are reporting. Fleisch drops to 43.32 percent, while Thompson rises to 26.11 percent. Imker sees the least change with 30.37 percent. There is still optimism that Fleisch can avoid the runoff, if a majority of the three remaining precincts vote for the incumbent. 

9:14 p.m.
A couple tables down from Fleisch, a man speaks up and says he sees the final results. After he reads them aloud, applause surrounds the room.

Fleisch hugs her supporters, reassuring them for the month ahead. The mood is jovial, if not celebratory. As the Fleisch cohort exits, one man yells “Let’s vote again!”


Christopher Dunn contributed to this report.

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About

Justin Fedich is a reporter for the Fayette County News. He has been a reporter for various papers around the Southeast, including the Athens Banner-Herald and the Selma Times-Journal. Justin is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in digital and broadcast journalism and a sports media certificate.


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