After previously coming in second place in a special election last month, Republican Johnny Chastain has declared victory in the runoff race for Georgia’s House District 7 seat.
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Chastain beat out fellow Republican candidate and Fannin County Development Authority member Sheree Ralston for the seat by less than 500 votes in a Jan. 31 runoff, according to certified results from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
Chastain has gotten 52.77% or 4,565 of 8,650 votes, while Sheree Ralston earned 47.23% or 4,085 votes, 480 less than her opponent.
During statewide redistricting efforts in 2021, Ga. District 7 was redrawn to include northwestern Dawson and all of Fannin and Gilmer counties.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office called for a special election after representative-elect David Ralston, the incumbent and former state house speaker, died in November.
An initial special election featuring five candidates was held on Jan. 3, 2023. Because neither Ralston or Chastain won more than 50 percent of the vote at that time, a runoff was scheduled for Jan. 31.
While Ralston won Dawson and Gilmer counties, people voted most in Fannin County, where both candidates are based.
In that county, Chastain beat Ralston 60.26% to 39.74% or by 948 votes, the results showed.
However, Ralston earned 51.35% or 114 of the overall 222 votes in Dawson County, only part of which belongs to Ga. District 7.
In an early morning Facebook post on Feb. 1, Chastain shared that he was “humbled beyond words” and thanked area voters, noting that “we knew that whoever the voters chose to take over the [District 7] seat would have huge shoes to fill.”
Chastain contrasted his campaign from his opponent’s, describing Ralston’s campaign as bolstered by two Georgia governors, various legislators and millions in funding.
“I might not have had unlimited money, but I had so many friends, community leaders, business leaders, family, and volunteers helping to shoulder this extraordinary lift that what seemed impossible became possible,” Chastain said. “But we know that with God, all things are possible.”
Going forward, he encouraged constituents to reach out with their concerns and feedback.
“My door is always open. I promise to be accountable, accessible, and transparent– and if I'm not, boot me out. I won't let you down,” Chastain said.
Chastain was sworn in during a Feb. 6 morning ceremony at the Georgia House of Representatives Chamber in Atlanta.
Similar to other Georgia House representatives, Chastain’s term will conclude at the end of 2024.