Richardson wins Georgia House runoff over MAGA hopeful Pearson

Gov. Brian Kemp endorsed business owner Gary Richardson
Republican Gary Richardson defeated fellow Republican C.J. Pearson in a special election runoff Tuesday for the state House. Richardson ran with the backing of Gov. Brian Kemp, while Pearson was aligned with former President Donald Trump. (Greg Bluestein / greg.bluestein@ajc.com)

Credit: Greg Bluestein/AJC

Credit: Greg Bluestein/AJC

Republican Gary Richardson defeated fellow Republican C.J. Pearson in a special election runoff Tuesday for the state House. Richardson ran with the backing of Gov. Brian Kemp, while Pearson was aligned with former President Donald Trump. (Greg Bluestein / greg.bluestein@ajc.com)

Former Columbia County Commissioner Gary Richardson defeated conservative activist C.J. Pearson in a runoff special election between the two Republicans to fill a seat in the Georgia House.

With the endorsement of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, Richardson won the solidly conservative Augusta-based seat against Pearson, a 21-year-old social media influencer who aligned himself with former President Donald Trump’s brand.

Richardson, the CEO of the Sparkle Express Car Wash chain, campaigned as a conservative businessman who prioritized the economy, police funding and opposing the “woke agenda.” He won about 60% of the vote, according to unofficial results.

The runoff election was marred by a technical problem with voting equipment that state election officials said affected 130 voters, but election workers used backup procedures so that voting wasn’t interrupted, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Officials in Columbia County called for a hand recount to double-check the results.

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Richardson will complete the term of former state Rep. Barry Fleming, a Republican from Harlem whom Kemp appointed to become a superior court judge. House District 125 includes parts of Columbia and McDuffie counties.

Richardson and Pearson will face off again in two months for a full two-year term. Both Republican candidates filed paperwork last week to run in the May 21 general primary. The winner will face Democrat Kay Turner, a cosmetology instructor who doesn’t have an opponent in the primary.