By 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Lynn Wright had racked up almost a 600-vote advantage over his closest competitor in the special election for state House District 37 representative, but the night was not without drama — nor was the race over, as it turned out.
With all ballots in Lowndes and Clay counties counted, Wright had collected 54 percent of the vote and appeared headed to an outright win over his two opponents, David Chism and Vicky Rose.
But when Oktibbeha County results arrived, Wright had fallen 14 votes short of a majority and will now face Chism in a runoff.
It was one of two special legislative elections in the area headed for an Oct. 13 runoff, as Bart Williams of Starkville and Joyce Meek Yates of Eupora placed first and second, respectively, Tuesday in the four-candidate race for the District 15 Senate seat.
Wright shrugged off disappointment of not securing the House seat outright Tuesday.
“I guess it’s three more weeks to get out there and work some more,” he said. “We’ll focus on all three counties, but Oktibbeha and Clay counties are where we fell behind. We’ve met some great people (in those counties) and we’ll be ready to get over there and work some more. That’s really what it comes down to now.”
Wright, the former Lowndes County School District superintendent, piled up a big lead in Lowndes County, which accounted for 1,806 of the 2,840 votes cast. Of his 1,407 votes (49.4 percent) , 1,146 were cast in his home county, including 719 votes in New Hope alone. He finished third in both Clay and Oktibbeha counties.
Columbus businessman Chism collected 914 votes (32.1 percent), leading the way in both Clay and Oktibbeha counties, while motivational speaker Vicky Rose, of West Point, finished out of the runoff with 529 votes (18.5 percent).
Until the Oktibbeha County votes arrived, Chism thought the election was over.
“I’m surprised with how things turned out,” he said soon after it became clear he had made it to a runoff. “About 30 minutes ago, I thought it was a given that Lynn Wright was going to win outright. I’ve got some work to do, but to force a runoff with someone of Lynn’s background and name recognition, I feel honored. I really do.”
The winner of the runoff will fill the unexpired term of Gary Chism (a distant cousin to David), who retired in June after 21 years in the House. The term runs through 2023.