MOULTRIE -- For the first time in 62 years, Colquitt County has a male probate judge.

By only 10 votes, attorney Wes Lewis beat insurance agent Judy Alderman in a runoff election that originated as a four-candidate race in the primary.

Alderman, once again, watched results trickle in at elections headquarters in the county courthouse. Her face fell as the current judge, Aileen Gay, who is set to retire, read what she thought was the final tally.

However, a counting error was quickly discovered. Absentee ballots cast on the touch-screen machines as part of advance voting last week were counted, but regular, mail-in absentee ballots had not been.

When all absentee ballots were counted, both candidates gained votes, but the result changed little. Lewis eked a victory, 1,696 votes to 1,686.

"It wasn't the good Lord's will," Alderman said tearfully to supporters.

Minutes afterward, she was on the telephone line with Lewis, congratulating him on a fine race.

Alderman is eligible for a recount under Georgia law. She came within 1 percent. She has until Tuesday, two business days after votes are certified Friday, to request one. Gay said Colquitt County has about six votes that could come in from overseas that have yet to be added.

But that wouldn't be enough to help Alderman.

Breathless from his victory, Lewis said he's sweated Georgia football games better than this tight election.

"First and foremost, I want to thank my opponent, Judy Alderman, for running a clean and fair race," Lewis said. "She was the candidate I did not know coming into the race. Obviously, I know her now. I just have a tremendous amount of respect for her. She ran a great race. She definitely fought hard. She offered her qualifications, as I did, to the county, and I think it was just a tough choice for the county to make. Obviously, I'm pleased with the outcome. I look forward to serving as the next judge of Probate Court if that holds. I want to commend Judy Alderman. What a class-act person ... I was humbled by the close win. It's not a clear mandate, so I realize there's an awesome responsibility to try to serve all the citizens of Colquitt County as the next judge of Probate Court."

Twenty-two percent of registered voters showed up at the polls.

When Shaw precinct's numbers came in at about 9 p.m., Lewis led by only five votes. It was another anxious half hour at the courthouse until the last precinct, Doerun, came in through the door. Doerun's votes were 51 for Lewis and 45 for Alderman.

Lewis carried only four out of 19 physical precincts plus absentees. The number of absentee voters was unusually heavy -- 457 -- and Lewis took 234 of those.

Lewis secured 67.85 percent of votes in the Moultrie precinct, representing the widest percentage margin. Actual votes in that precinct were 477 to 226.

Alderman, however, carried the next largest turnout in Shaw 160 to 128.

In the statewide election for the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, Colquitt County overwhelmingly supported Cliff Oxford over Denise Majette.

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