Gwinnett Daily Post–Incumbent Wins Contentious Commission Race

August 9, 2006

By Camie Young
Staff Writer

BUFORD – Kevin Kenerly on Tuesday became one of the first incumbent county commissioners to survive a runoff in recent Gwinnett history.

Despite a smear campaign against him that led to indictments last week, Kenerly is one step closer to being the first county commissioner to win a fourth term.

The 43-year-old real estate investor beat attorney Jodie Rosser by 236 votes, just four days after a consultant with ties to Rosser’s campaign was booked into the county jail. Bill McKinney was jailed Friday on charges of creating an anonymous campaign against Kenerly and failing to disclose his contributors and expenditures.

Kenerly celebrated at a Taco Mac in Buford, surrounded by family and supporters.

In the crowd were three of the people who served with Kenerly when he was elected to the county commission 12 years ago – former chairman Wayne Hill and former commissioners Judy Waters and Tommy Hughes. Hill lost a primary runoff two years ago, when he was seeking his fourth term.

On election night, the vote tallies went back and forth between candidates.

Rosser didn’t watch the votes come in, getting updates from her father and other friends.

But Kenerly and his wife Beth pored over the results.

“I feel like I’m on a roller coaster going click, click, click,” up a hill, Beth Kenerly said.

Kevin Kenerly said his closest race before Tuesday was four years ago, and that time he came away with 59 percent of the vote.

This was his first runoff, and he was the first incumbent in years to survive one.

But he faces another challenge in November, squaring off against Democrat John Kenney in the general election.

Rosser, who says she kept her distance from Bill McKinney, the operative who faces 29 misdemeanor counts and one felony indictment, said she doesn’t know how much the recent controversy impacted the election.

But Kenerly said it likely weighed on some voters’ minds. He thinks other voters were swayed by a video of himself gambling in Las Vegas in the company of local developers, which was the first manifestation of the smear campaign.

“You never know what people think when they go to the polls,” he said.

Rosser did not return phone calls after the final tally came in, but earlier in the night she said she got a lot of support from the community and wondered about the typically low turnout during a runoff.

“If the people who tell you they’ll vote for you go vote, then I’ll be OK,” she said. “There’s nothing you can do about it now.”

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