State House candidate Deborah Silcox.

A Sandy Springs newcomer claimed victory in the primary battle for a state House seat that set long-time Republican leaders against one another.

Deborah Silcox collected about 57 percent of the vote in early returns in the Republican primary on May 24, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. She appeared poised to defeat former Sandy Springs City Councilman Graham McDonald in the Republican primary race in House District 52.

“This is all surreal to me,” Silcox said Election Night. “It really is.”

The district covers portions of both Buckhead and Sandy Springs and previously had been held for 16 years by Republican Rep. Joe Wilkinson, who supported Silcox, as did several prominent local Republicans.

Wilkinson originally filed to run for re-election, but then dropped out, saying had had been “blindsided” by McDonald’s decision to file for the office.

Wilkinson said the former councilman’s campaign was part of a “plot” involving several prominent Sandy Springs officials, including Mayor Rusty Paul, to replace Wilkinson.

“They saw this as an opportunity to circumvent the electoral process by urging me to qualify to run again and then withdraw at the last minute and allow their candidate of choice to step into office unopposed,” Wilkinson said in a statement shortly after announcing his resignation. “I flatly rejected this proposal. Yet they went ahead with their plot and, at the last minute, qualified their chosen candidate McDonald. Their intention was to then pressure me to step aside with false claims that I have not been focusing on the needs of Sandy Springs.”

Paul denied there had been any “grand plot” to replace Wilkinson with McDonald. “I am sad on a personal level that it has reached this point,” Paul said at the time. “It was as a friend I tried to be frank and candid about my concerns, in hopes he would go out to the appreciation and universal thanks from the community that he deserves.”

Silcox said she did not think the divisions would create a permanent rift in the Republican establishment.

She said she thought she won because of the campaign she waged. “I worked day and night at this,” she said.

What’s next? “I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never done this before. We’ll see.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

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