2 Republicans advance to May 7 runoff in special election for Georgia House seat in Columbus area


ATLANTA (AP) — Two Georgia Republicans are headed to a May 7 runoff in a special election to replace state Rep. Richard Smith of Columbus, who died Jan. 30 while ill with the flu.

Sean Knox and Carmen Rice will face off for the remainder of Smith's term on May 7, according to results from the Georgia Secretary of State.

Knox owns a pest control company and is a former member of the board of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Rice, a human resources professional, is the first woman to serve as Republican Party chair in Muscogee County.

Both Knox and Rice won more than 42% of the vote, with Knox edging out Rice by a handful of ballots. Finishing third was independent Robert Mallard, an Army veteran and former real estate broker who owns a beekeeping and honey company. Don Moeller, an Army veteran who is both a physician and dentist, finished fourth.

No Democrats qualified in what historically has been a Republican district covering parts of Muscogee and Harris counties.

All the candidates ran together in the special election with no primaries to select nominees.

The election is only for the remainder of Smith's term through the end of this year, a period when legislators are not scheduled to meet. Candidates must run again this year if they want to continue serving past January.

Knox, Moeller and Rice all qualified for the Republican primary on May 21. Carl Sprayberry is the lone Democrat to qualify and will be his party's nominee in November. Mallard could qualify this summer as independent for the November election.