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Chris Cohilas wins Dougherty County Commission chair

Dougherty County's longest-serving commissioner is knocked off by first-time candidate

Jackie Logue, Elaine Barrett, Rick Barrett and Rashad Flournoy cast ballots Tuesday in Albany. Fewer than one out of every four eligible voters turned out for the election in Dougherty County. (Staff photo: Laura Williams)

Jackie Logue, Elaine Barrett, Rick Barrett and Rashad Flournoy cast ballots Tuesday in Albany. Fewer than one out of every four eligible voters turned out for the election in Dougherty County. (Staff photo: Laura Williams)

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Chris Cohilas, a lawyer and former prosecutor, will replace outgoing Commissioner Jeff Sinyard as chairman of the Dougherty County Commission in January. Cohilas edged opponent Gloria Gaines by 113 votes Tuesday. (Staff photo)

ALBANY — It came down to the wire, but by a scant 113 votes attorney Chris Cohilas edged former Dougherty County Commissioner Gloria Gaines Tuesday to claim the chairmanship of the Dougherty County Commission in unofficial but complete returns.

Cohilas won polling on election day by a handy margin, 3,957 votes to Gaines’ 3,481. That was just enough to hold off Gaines’ 1,100-737 margin in early and absentee ballots.

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Gloria Gaines, who gave up her District 5 Dougherty County Commission seat to run for the chairmanship of the board, narrowly lost her bid to Chris Cohilas. (Staff photo)

“I’m proud tonight, very pleased that the citizens of Dougherty County responded to the very positive message we’ve maintained throughout this campaign,” an elated Cohilas said from a victory celebration at the downtown Cafe 230 late Tuesday night after unofficial returns were reported. “This campaign has included a very diverse group that has walked the streets of every neighborhood in Dougherty County, north, south, east and west.

“The message that we’ve brought — and the feedback we’ve gotten throughout the community — has been about economic development, about bringing jobs to the people here.”

Cohilas praised Gaines, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday night, for her well-fought and positive campaign.

“I commend Gloria and thank her for running a positive campaign that was strictly about the issues,” he said. “I’m proud that she and I met and made a promise to each other that we would make this campaign about the issues. I think we both kept that promise.”

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Anthony Jones, a former University of Georgia Extension agent, unseated Dougherty County's longest seated commissioner, Jack Stone, in Tuesday's election. (Staff photo)

In other unofficial final returns, Cohilas learned that he will be serving on the commission with Anthony Jones, who outpolled incumbent Jack Stone 908-485 to easily win the District 6 commission seat. Stone’s loss will bring an end to his 28-year tenure.

Newcomer Pat Garner, an assistant professor at Darton College, outpolled Tracy Taylor 767-420 to win the Democratic nomination for the commission’s District 4 seat. Garner will challenge incumbent Republican Ewell Lyle in the Nov. 4 general election.

“I’m very excited about going onto the commission with Anthony,” Cohilas said of Jones. “In the time I’ve spent with him, I’ve seen that he has some great ideas.

“You know what, all this really has not sunk in yet. I can’t put a value on the tremendous campaign support I got from a great group of volunteers, who really worked hard to make this happen.”

Garner, meanwhile, congratulated his opponent on the way he ran his campaign.

“I feel really good right now, but the first thing I want to do is thank Tracy Taylor for putting on a competitive primary,” Garner said from his celebration at Jamaican Flavor. “He helped make me a better candidate.

“I think tonight shows that people rallied around my three-pronged campaign. I think that, and the fact that me and my volunteers went to more than 2,000 houses in the district, made the difference.”

Stone was his typical gruff self after getting news of the returns, saying, “This means at the end of the year I can get my ass out of there.” But he was gracious and unbowed in defeat.

“The people have spoken, and I think tonight shows that they’re ready for change,” the retired businessman said. “I ran on my record, but I don’t think I was able to get that record out to the people. I probably shouldn’t have run (because of health issues), but my concern was for the people of East Albany. I just hope that (Jones) does what he said he would do and takes care of the people of East Albany. I have no reason to believe he won’t do that.”

Garner said he would rest for a short period before gearing up for his campaign against Lyle.

“I’m going to continue doing what’s been working: knocking on doors and getting my message out there,” the presumed Democratic nominee said. “I have some class work that I put on hold during the campaign that I need to catch up on, but I expect to be back out there soon.”

Only 11,242 of Dougherty County’s 49,570 registered voters cast ballots in the primaries, a disappointing 22.68 percent turnout.