Carson, 40, a SunTrust finance manager, received 1,250 votes, or 65.2 percent, compared to former state Sen. Robert Lamutt, who received only 668 votes, or 34.8 percent, according to the unofficial results published by the Cobb Board of Elections.
“I’m just very, very thankful to my friends and supporters, and my wife, Beverly, so much for supporting me through his whole thing,” said Carson, who celebrated the returns surrounded by friends and family at O’Charley’s off Shallowford Road. “It’s been trying, but we’re going to take some time off, her and I and the kids, and I just look forward to representing northeast Cobb.”
Carson and Lamutt emerged from a five-candidate special election on Sept. 20 to square off in the runoff scheduled after Franklin was found dead in his home on July 26 after complaining of chest pains.
In that special election, Carson received 801 votes, or 35.63 percent, compared to Lamutt’s 699 votes, or 31.09 percent.
With more than 30,000 registered voters in District 43, the majority didn’t cast a vote for anyone in either election.
Kennesaw State University professor Dr. Kerwin Swint has referred to Lamutt as the Republican establishment’s candidate, and that point is underscored by the list of his campaign contributors, which includes Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), state Rep. Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb) and Tricia Pridemore, who worked on Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign.
Yet Carson said his newcomer status played in his favor.
“That’s exactly what we ran on: a new conservative voice,” Carson said. “That was what we kept repeating over and over. Everytime I talked about ‘we don’t need more career politicians,’ it kind of played into my favor when he was talking about he was endorsed by this person and that person and that person.”
Swint also believes voters were looking for a fresh voice.
“I think there’s a sense out there that they need somebody with some ideas and energy who hasn’t gotten a chance to serve before, but also those establishment contributions don’t always bring with them votes, so it doesn’t always carry through in bringing people to the polls,” Swint said.
There is also the point that a seasoned candidate like Lamutt can bring past baggage into the race.
“There are people in Cobb County who remember Robert’s time, and not all of them, I guess, remember it fondly,” Swint said.
Lamutt did not return calls after the polls revealed that he had lost, but earlier in the day he accused Carson of running a negative campaign.
“My purpose in this was to see whether or not we could keep it totally straight up, totally clean, whether or not it was necessary to go negative to win, and we hope and think that it isn’t necessary,” Lamutt said Tuesday afternoon. “He was 100 percent negative. He sent out four hit pieces. Zero positive pieces. … Everything was 100 percent ‘Robert’s bad, so vote for me.’”
One factor that may have hurt Lamutt was reports detailing several liens worth $136,500 which the IRS filed against him for taxes owed by his business. Lamutt said he was slammed by the commercial real estate market and rather than declare bankruptcy and fire all his employees, decided to enter a payment plan with the IRS. But he was sharply criticized online, as well as places like the Madison Forum, for owing the IRS money.
A state campaign finance report filed on Monday revealed Lamutt had total contributions to date of $41,860 and a balance of $4,806.
Lamutt outraised Carson, who by comparison reported total contributions of $24,934 with a balance of $4,796.
Carson and his wife, Beverly, have two children: Elizabeth, 3; and Jack, 2. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Georgia State University and a master’s in finance from Kennesaw State University.
“I think Lamutt wanted to more or less count on his name recognition,” Carson said. “I think he wanted to count more on that, and I think what put me over the edge was a lot of personal contact with the voters.”