Kip Smith will have to wait four weeks to see if voters of Georgia House District 129 will send him to Atlanta to replace his father in the General Assembly.
Vance Smith resigned the seat in June when he was named commissioner of the Department of Transportation. That opened the door for special election in which Smith's younger son, Kip, was one of four Republican candidates.
Kip Smith, 27, was the front-runner with 99 percent of the vote counted, according to totals from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Smith, managing partner of a Columbus real estate holding firm, had 2,212 votes or 49.4 percent of 4,478 votes that had been counted.
He needed more than 50 percent to avoid a Dec. 1 runoff.
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Pine Mountain wellness center owner Steve Earles had 986 votes or 22 percent to work his way into the runoff.
Smith said he was "thrilled" with the outcome.
"I am so pleased that we won every precinct in Harris County," Smith said. "I am thankful for every vote I got. Now, we will continue to go door to door and get in front of the people and tell them what we plan to do to move this district forward."
Earles, like Smith running for elected office for the first time, said overcoming Smith's advantage will be a challenge.
"But it is a challenge that is worth fighting for," said Earles, 56. "Now that we are head to head, the issues will be more defined. It's all about maturity and qualifications."
Hamilton businessman and former state legislator Earl Davis had 15.1 percent and Columbus publishing consultant and radio and television talk show host Jerry Luquire had 13.4 percent.
Davis, 75, said he has not decided if he will ask those who voted for him to support Smith or Earles.
"My voters are pretty independent and capable of making their own decision," Davis said. "But Steve and I see eye to eye on more things than Kip and I do."
Luquire, 71, said he was asking his supporters to back Earles.
The winner of the seat will serve one year of the two-year term. The District 129 seat will be back on the ballot next year, first in the July primaries, then in the November General Election.
The district includes parts of Muscogee, Harris and Troup counties.
Vance Smith was the district’s representative for 17 years, rising to a key leadership position in the Republican-controlled house. He was chairman of the House Transportation Committee when he resigned.