Recount looks likely in Republican superintendent race

First, a crowded primary. Then, a runoff that doesn’t run either candidate off the ballot.

Now, the race between Mike Buck and Richard L. Woods, the two Republican candidates for Georgia school superintendent, appears to be headed for a recount.

Woods, a longtime educator from Irwin County making his second bid for superintendent, held a paper-thin edge over Buck, the chief academic officer for the Georgia Department of Educator. With nearly all of the state’s counties reporting their results late Tuesday night, that edge was within the 1 percent threshold that would give Buck the right to request a recount. He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he would request a recount if the margin turns out to be closer than 1 percent.

“We would all like to have some closure, but it looks like sometime tomorrow at the very earliest before we’ll know,” Buck said from his campaign headquarters late Tuesday night. “So, we’ll stick it out and see what happens.”

Four years ago, Woods lost in the Republican primary to the man who eventually won the superintendent’s race, John Barge.

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Either Woods or Buck would take on Valarie Wilson in the general election this fall. Wilson, the former chairwoman of the City Schools of Decatur school board, defeated state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, D-Austell, in the Democratic runoff Tuesday.

“It feels kind of surreal,” Wilson said. “You work so hard for it and then you get it and it’s like, ‘Really?’ It’s good though. Really, really good.”

As of midnight, Morgan had not released a statement conceding the race, though results indicated she was far behind.

Morgan, who has served in the House for a dozen years, was a favorite on the Democratic side from the moment she entered the race. But her support for a 2012 constitutional amendment that clarified the state’s authority to create charter schools angered many in her party.

While that amendment was approved by voters, Democratic officials who had opposed it didn’t forget that Morgan had allied herself with conservative Republicans in that fight. Much of the party apparatus backed Wilson in the primary and the runoff.

A Woods win over Buck could expose fissures in the GOP this fall. Woods opposes the controversial set of national academic standards known as Common Core. That stance holds him in good standing with tea party activists, who share his view of the standards as a federal intrusion into state control of public education.

But business and military groups – not to mention top Republicans like Gov. Nathan Deal – support the standards. An effort in the General Assembly to essentially pull Georgia out of the Common Core was defeated this year – but not before a bitter fight that left many tea party activists angry with the GOP.

Buck said the passionate opponents of Common Core contributed to Woods’ strong showing on Tuesday.

“I thought it would be close,” he said. “Obviously, his position on Common Core appeals to a certain group. That group is very likely to show up en masse. To their credit, they showed up at the polls. I fully anticipated it would be close.”

Staff writers Daniel Wilco and Emily Farlow contributed to this article.

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