By Joel Hall
In a race that was neck-and-neck for much of the day Tuesday, former State Rep. Gail Buckner came away with a victory over incumbent State Sen. Gail Davenport.
In Clayton County, where the lion's share of Senate District 44 lies, Buckner took 57 percent of the votes, compared to Davenport's 43 percent. Early voters gave Buckner a significant boost, pushing Buckner's lead in the polls from 8 points to 14 points when 59 out of 60 precincts reported.
The Georgia Secretary of State's office reported the results as 55 percent to 45 percent, with 95 percent of the precincts in Clayton and Henry counties reporting.
Buckner said Davenport's campaign against her has been "pretty rough and pretty negative" and that her win "simply validates why Davenport needed to be removed from office."
"I'm pleased to have an opportunity to help restore our state leadership," said Buckner. "We have a wonderful community and I plan to be very helpful in restoring confidence.
"When we work together, we can accomplish great things," Buckner continued. "I will be at the table to make that happen."
Davenport, who will end her time in office after one term, said she was pleased with her campaign and had "worked hard the whole day" to sway undecided voters.
"We've done the very best that we could do in this race," said Davenport. "We have had good support, and good volunteers, and we have been very appreciative."
Davenport said despite the election results, she plans to continue to be a positive force in the district.
"I grew up in Clayton County," said Davenport. "I've always been active in the community and I will continue to be active in my community."
Buckner said her first efforts in office would be to promote unity among Clayton County's elected officials.
"The first thing I plan to do is unite this county and restore confidence in our elected officials," said Buckner. "I plan to reach out to citizens and put together a coalition of folks from every community who can help inform citizens about those issues.
"We need to let everybody have a voice in the process," said Buckner.