Vernon Jones appears headed to win in Georgia House race

The political comeback of former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones appeared to take a major step forward Tuesday as he headed for victory in a state House runoff.

Meanwhile, the last World War II veteran serving in the Georgia Legislature likely lost his final re-election bid, as 94-year-old state Rep. John Yates appeared to succumb to a Republican primary runoff challenge from Griffin chiropractor Karen Mathiak.

Yates was one of three incumbents in the Legislature who faced runoffs after failing to get enough votes in the state’s May primary. Each appeared to be headed to defeat.

The other GOP incumbent, state Rep. Tom Dickson, could not overcome a challenge from Chatsworth farmer Jason Ridley. Dickson, the retired schools superintendent of Whitfield County, is a subcommittee chairman on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

For the veteran Yates, who is chairman of the House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee and also serves on the budget panel, the defeat is bittersweet. He had campaigned on the promise that this would be his final bid for office and he wanted to leave on his own terms. But he faced an anti-incumbency electorate in the conservative House District 73, which includes parts of Fayette, Henry and Spalding counties.

The 60-year-old Mathiak campaigned on the idea of limiting terms of office, saying the more than 20 years Yates had spent at the Capitol made him a career politician. It was a label Yates, first elected in 1989, knew could sink him, even as he welcomed help from his fellow Republican House members, including House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Mathiak, who emphasized career education and economic revitalization for the district, will face a Democrat, real estate developer Rahim Talley, in November.

Veteran incumbent state Rep. Darryl Jordan, D-Riverdale, appeared to be losing his runoff with Rhonda Burnough.

Among other notable legislative results Tuesday:

In DeKalb County, Jones was leading legal support consultant Rhonda Taylor in the Democratic race for state House District 91, which covers parts of DeKalb and Rockdale counties. The winner will face Republican Carl Anuszczyk in November.

Jones had previously served in the state House and has been a regular name on the ballot in recent years.

In Brookhaven, attorney Meagan Hanson appeared to pull ahead late against businessman Alan Cole in the GOP primary for a toss-up House District 80. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Taylor Bennett in November.

In Chamblee and Doraville, 33-year-old pilot and business owner Lane Flynn had a big lead over longtime real estate broker Jim Duffie in the GOP primary for another toss-up, House District 81. The winner will face Democratic incumbent Scott Holcomb in November.

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