After trailing most of the evening in the race for the Muscogee County School Board District 2 seat, incumbent John Wells slipped into a runoff after midnight when the early votes were finally counted. He will face John F. Thomas.
Wells trailed John "Bart" Steed by 43 votes after Tuesday's votes were counted, but he finished with a 39-vote lead after the early votes were tallied.
Provisional votes will be counted later in the week, but Wells is expected to maintain a lead over Steed.
Thomas led throughout the evening and finished with 1,449 votes, or 35.27 percent. Wells received 1,132 votes (27.56 percent) to Steed's 1,093 votes (26.61 percent).
The third challenger, Victor Morales, finished with 429 votes, or 10.44 percent.
Wells, 74, is a businessman with interests mostly in property management and construction. His 28 years of service make him the nine-member board’s senior representative. He has been the board’s chairman and, for the past 17 years, the finance committee chairman. That’s also the same period of time the board hasn’t raised the millage rate on property taxes.
Thomas, 59, is an IRS agent. He was general manager of Delaware North Companies, a global food service and hospitality company headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y. He has lived in Columbus since 2007. His wife, Marjorie, is a Columbus native and teaches in the district.
Wells often has run unopposed, but this election season attracted a trio of foes calling for more accountability after Wells was accused of leading the board’s revolt two years ago, when a bloc of five board members, without explanation, voted down all of then-superintendent Susan Andrews’ personnel recommendations during an infamous meeting that still reverberated in this campaign.
Wells’ opponents also called for the board to end its practice of approving no-bid contracts.