County Utilities Department employee Paul Sullivan and Barbara "Bobbi" Mills eked out victories Tuesday in the runoff to determine who would represent Republicans in November races for Hernando County Commission districts 5 and 3.
A cheer went up from where Sullivan stood amid his supporters in the Supervisor of Elections Office as the final tally came in just before 8:30 p.m.
"We won," Sullivan shouted and pumped his fists in the air.
Like a group of beauty pageant contestants who swarm the winner moments after the crowning, supporters surrounded Sullivan and offered congratulatory hugs.
Mills, who ran unsuccessfully in 1994 for the Hernando School Board, was more sedate. She gave Sullivan a peck on the cheek and went over to stand with her husband, Ron.
"I'm thrilled," Mills said. A big smile followed.
The races stayed neck-and-neck all evening. But in the end, Sullivan won 53 percent of the District 5 vote to defeat opponent David Love, who received 47 percent, according to unofficial results.
Mills defeated Guy "Rusty" Amore in District 3, with Mills receiving 52.5 percent of the vote, while Amore won 47.5 percent.
Turnout was light, at slightly less than 15 percent. Figures showed 5,048 of the 39,159 registered Republicans cast ballots. Tuesday's turnout was 5 percent less than the primary on Sept. 3, when about 20 percent of voters visited the polls.
Mills and Sullivan led all evening by small margins. But with large precincts such as the two at Timber Pines not counted until late, neither was celebrating early.
"This is when it starts to get nerve racking," said Mills, 55, when nearly half the results were in.
Love and Amore remained low key after their defeats.
"I'm going to go home and go to bed," said Amore, 54, as he and his wife, Bunni, left the county government center.
Love, 32, did not offer reasons for his defeat, saying he had to see a precinct breakdown of the vote first. He thanked his volunteers and those who voted for him.
Mills, who received nearly 48 percent of the vote in September, had to face the second-place Amore because she failed to win a majority in a three-way race.
Sullivan, 51, won a third of the votes in the first election, while Love finished second in the six-way race with 25 percent.
Sullivan now faces Democrat Joe Lentini of Hernando Beach and unaffiliated candidate Diane Rowden of Spring Hill. Awaiting Mills is Democrat Roy Jensen of Spring Hill.