With all 17 precincts reporting, the unofficial totals showed Hightower with 1,259 votes, while Martinez got 1,013 votes, or 44.6 percent. Voter turnout was slightly less than 7 percent.
“I want to thank everyone from District 68, my friends and family, for believing in me,” Hightower said Tuesday night after the votes were counted. “I want them to hold me accountable for doing a good job and for representing them well.”
Martinez congratulated Hightower for “running a good race” and said he was proud to run against him.
Martinez indicated he might again seek the seat, the next time for a full term in the spring primaries.
“I feel like it’s almost assured that I will run again,” he said Tuesday night. “My wife and I will spend some time talking about it. We learned a lot of things this election, and we think we’ll be prepared to take it on the next time.”
As winner of the special election, Hightower will fill the vacant House seat for the last year of the two-year term of Rep. Tim Bearden, R-Villa Rica. Bearden was appointed director of the Georgia Law Enforcement Training Center by Gov. Nathan Deal. He’ll join Mike Crane, a Newnan Republican, as newcomers to Carroll County’s legislative delegation. Crane in December won the Senate District 28 special election runoff.
Hightower and Martinez, both Republicans, were the top vote-getters from a slate of six candidates in the Dec. 6 special election. In that voting, Hightower got 41.8 percent of the vote to Martinez’s 21.3 percent.
While the Carroll County voter turnout was only 6.89 percent Tuesday, Supervisor of Elections Becky Deese said it was better than she expected.
“We had 2,600 voters turn out for the Dec. 6 election when we had two races, House District 68 and the Senate District 28 runoff,” Deese said. “We had 2,174 voters this time for this one race. That says a lot about how hard the candidates worked to get voters to the polls during a holiday period.”
Hightower won 12 of the 17 precincts, some by substantial margins. His win in Center Point was 139-45; Clem, 185-55; and Sandhill 107-73. They tied in the Bonner precinct, 2 votes apiece.
However, Martinez won his home territory, capturing all three Villa Rica precincts and Fairfield, where he gained his widest margin, taking the vote there by 291-173.
His Villa Rica votes were Villa Rica City, 82-40; Villa Rica North, 71-38; and Villa Rica South, 85-46.
One of the biggest issues casting a shadow over the Tuesday results is the possibility that proposed remapping of the state House districts will put Hightower outside District 68, which would make him ineligible to seek a full term later this year. Martinez, who lives in Villa Rica and inside the district, even with the proposed remapping, made this a big plank in his platform.
Hightower said Tuesday night that he’s going to “do everything I can to make myself eligible to run again.”
“I’m told these maps are not final yet and I’m planning to do what it takes to represent District 68,” he said.
Martinez was elated that he was able to boost his vote total from 454 votes on Dec. 6 to more than a thousand Tuesday.
“That’s a testament of the hard work of our campaign team,” he said. “We built relationships that we’ll carry for life. It’s been a really great experience for me. I’ve grown and met some phenomenal people who will forever be in my life. I also want to thank my wife and family for putting up with the process because I don’t do things halfway. We’ve been amazingly blessed.”
Martinez based his campaign message on his 20-plus years of financial experience and his involvement in the school system and community.
Hightower will have only a few days now to bring himself up to speed on numerous issues since the Georgia General Assembly will convene next Monday.
He has pledged to support conservative Republican ideals such as zero-based budgeting, financial responsibility and transparency within government.
“I will fight to protect our Second Amendment right to bear arms and make sure this right is not infringed upon,” Hightower said during a campaign debate. “I will support House Bill 87 and fight illegal immigration.”
He has also pledged his support to education, noting that both his wife and mother are teachers.