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Vilnis "Dip" Gaines

ALBANY -- A rapturous crowd gathered around the man of the hour at around 8:45 Tuesday night, chanting the name that had become such a flashpoint in the Albany City Commission Ward III runoff election: "Dip! Dip! Dip! Dip! Dip."

Vilnis "Dip" Gaines, whose childhood nickname had become a point of contention for some in the community, soaked it all in after he handily defeated incumbent Ward III Commissioner B.J. Fletcher 706-473 to claim the Ward III seat Fletcher has held for the past eight years.

"Don't let anyone say you won't go back to the polls," Gaines shouted after winning a runoff that saw more voters -- 1,180, 14.06% of the electorate in Ward III -- turn out than had in the three-way municipal election on Nov. 2. The runoff was needed after neither Gaines nor Fletcher garnered the 50% plus one vote necessary to win the seat outright.

"I'm overjoyed; I'm so happy right now, happy for the people of Ward III," Gaines said at what quickly turned into a victory celebration. "I can't say thank you enough to the people who have supported me and worked so hard to make this happen. I am happy to be the person from their neighborhood, the person who lives right there with them, who will now represent them in our city government."

Gaines won in all manner of voting in the runoff: outpolling Fletcher 565-399 on Election Day and 134-63 in advance balloting. Fletcher held a slight advantage, 11-7, in absentee ballots by mail.

While saddened by the defeat, Fletcher said in a text message after the vote was final that "it's like a weight has been lifted off me. I have been tired for a long time."

With Gaines' election, the new-look Albany Commission will feature two new members in 2022. Jalen Johnson won the Ward II seat vacated by businessman Matt Fuller, who decided not to seek re-election after serving a four-year term. Incumbent Bob Langstaff won the Ward V seat in the Nov. 2 election. Mayor Bo Dorough and Commissioners Jon Howard (Ward I), Chad Warbington (Ward IV) and Demetrius Young (Ward V) are holdover members of the board.

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