Ga. Primary: Gregory turns back Smith's challenge

South Georgia voters reject transportation sales tax

ST. MARYS, Ga. - Camden County voters gave Tommy Gregory a second term as sheriff in Tuesday's primary, and voters across South Georgia rejected a 1 cent sales tax to fund transportation projects.

Nearly a third of registered voters cast ballots in Camden County, and counties across the state also reported strong turnout in races to decide who will represent them in federal, state and county offices.

Both Gregory and Smith supporters were out in force all day, waving signs and trying to sway voters headed to the polls.

Smith served two and a half decades as the sheriff -- and with his forefathers, the family held the Sheriff's Office about 80 years.

An early lead for Smith turned into a deadlock about midway through the night, then became a 53-47 loss for the former sheriff.

I'm feeling pretty good right now, and humbled the citizens of Camden Colunty have placed their trust in me again. 1206
1208 so I'm ecstatic.

"I'm feeling pretty good right now, and humbled the citizens of Camden County have placed their trust in me again," said Gregory, who once worked as a deputy for Smith.

While  Gregory won the Republican primary and no Democrat is in the race, election officials said it is possible an independent candidate could qualify by petition before next Monday's deadline and face Gregory in the General Election.

"There is a question of somebody getting on the ballot in November, but that's an uphill battle," Gregory said.

Voters in Woodbine also were asked whether alcohol sales should be allowed within limits.  Selling alcohol by the package passed by 12 percent,, but selling it by the drink failed by just 5 votes .

Transportation tax

Supporters of the 1 cent transportation tax spent $8 million trying to convince voters that the plan will add jobs, ease congestion and improve the quality of life. The plan was endorsed by Republican state leaders including Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, in addition to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat.

Critics blasted the plan as not only the heftiest tax proposal in state history, but as a false strategy that addresses neither sprawl nor smart growth.

Of a dozen voters Channel 4's Kent Justice asked outside a St. Marys polling place, not a single person was in favor of the tax.

"We've got enough taxes now, know what I'm saying?" Andrea Baker said. "The roads might need some help, like that one does, but we've got enough, too much taxes."

The Coastal Georgia and South Georgia T-SPLOST regions rejected the tax by a 58-42 margin.  Of the 12  tax regions in the state, only three Central Georgia districts approved the tax and will generate money to be spent within those regions. Regions that did not pass the referendum get nothing.

Every county also voted non-binding ballot questions on issues ranging from gifts to lawmakers, casino gambling and energy tax credits.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.