Surrounded by family members, friends and well-wishers Tuesday night, Ann Purcell anxiously awaited the numbers — any numbers — from her state House District 159 race.
Eventually, more than two hours after the polls closed, the numbers trickled in and soon the flood represented the deluge. Purcell received 4,495 votes, 79.2 of those cast, to Jesse Tyler’s 1,180 to represent the west Chatham-south Effingham district and fill the unexpired term of Buddy Carter.
“I am delighted,” Purcell said. “In elections, you never know what’s going to happen because you don’t get the voter turnout. I’m excited about serving our community again. It’s one of those things where the citizens are truly the voice. I’m excited about working for all of District 159 and being that voice.”
Purcell had been a state legislator for 14 years before losing to Carter in 2004. Carter gave up his seat to run for the state Senate District 1 post that Eric Johnson relinquished to concentrate on his run for governor. Carter handily defeated former Chatham County Commission Chairman Billy Hair 10,898-2,371.
Purcell ran her own campaign and said the voters supported the issues she has pushed.
“It was a positive campaign, and I feel very good about it,” she said. “I thank the people for supporting those issues and supporting me and returning me to the House.”
Tyler, in his first race as a candidate, said Purcell ran an effective campaign. But he also has few regrets about how he conducted his bid for the District 159 seat.
“I spent close to $2,000, and I got over 1,000 votes. She spent $30,000 and got 4,000 votes,” he said.
Tyler said his results would have been better if he had more time to get his message out to the voters.
“I feel my values are those of the district,” he said. “My message is government needs to do more with less. We ran a great grass-roots campaign.”
Though Purcell has not been in the General Assembly since 2004, she has been a member of the state Technical College System board for four and a half years as an at-large member. It’s kept her in touch with the legislators and with the current constraints of the state’s declining revenues.
“We know the issues because we have been very involved through the community,” she said. “Being involved for the last four and a half years with the Technical College System of Georgia has kept me in somewhat of a know situation with the budget.”
Purcell will be giving up her position with the technical college board, citing her election as a conflict of interest.
“I will be writing a letter of resignation soon,” she said.
Tyler likely will be a candidate again when the seat comes up for election in November 2010.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to run again next year,” he said.
Though she is an Effingham County native and resident, Purcell said she will be representing the entire district.
“There is no line there,” she said. “We all work together for Coastal Georgia, and that is the important thing.”