The bruising battle for Cobb Commission Chairman is far from over.
Incumbent Tim Lee garnered nearly 40 percent of the vote in a four-candidate race for the Republican nomination in Tuesday's primary. But it wasn't enough to prevent an Aug. 21 runoff.
Complete results had not been tabulated by early Wednesday. But partial returns had Lee with 27,619 votes, or 39.9 percent. Former chairman Bill Byrne received 18,205 votes, or 26 percent, while first-time candidate Mike Boyce had 16,178 votes, or 23 percent.
Larry Savage, who ran against Lee in 2010, collected 7,212 votes, or 10 percent.
(For updated totals, visit the Georgia Secretary of State's elections website.)
The winner of the runoff will be the next chairman, since no Democratic candidate filed to run for the countywide office.
"It looks like the way we thought it would look," Lee said Tuesday from his election night headquarters at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Kennesaw. "It looks like we're going to be in a runoff with Bill Byrne."
Byrne wasn't quite ready to declare himself in a runoff when interviewed at Shillings on the Square in Marietta shortly before midnight, but sounded confident of his chances.
"If those numbers continue to hold up, we'll be in a runoff," he said. "I would be ecstatic with that."
He also said he would ask for the endorsements of Boyce and Savage. Like Byrne, they repeatedly attacked Lee during the campaign for his vote last year to raise the Cobb prooperty tax millage rate and for his support for the TSPLOST referendum that went down to a crushing defeat Tuesday.
Both Lee and Byrne said they would continue the message and tenor of their campaigns during the three-week runoff period. At last week's Cobb Republican Party , Lee accused Byrne of being disloyal to Cobb for remarks he made two years ago attempting to qualify to run for the Polk County Commission. Byrne claimed Lee's campaign was on the verge of "imploding."
On Tuesday, Lee repeated his assertions that "I'm for moving Cobb forward," while Byrne is "looking in the rearview mirror, which is a recipe for getting stuck in the mud."
Byrne, the Cobb chairman from 1992-2002, says Tuesday's results show that Lee is vulnerable.
"An incumbent under 40 percent has got a lot of problems," Byrne said. "He needed to win outright or he was in trouble. He couldn't."
There will be at least one candidates forum during the runoff, slated for Aug. 15 at in East Cobb.