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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Jesse Vaughn, candidate for the District 5 Georgia House set speaks at the Murray County Senior Center. The Murray County Republican Party hosted a meet and greet for candidates running for the District 5 Georgia House Seat on December 20, 2018. The seat was left empty with the death of longtime house member John Meadows.

Attorney Jesse Vaughn has raised three times as much money as his opponent, Matt Barton, in next week's Georgia State House District 5 race.

With support from several current members of the state Legislature, Vaughn has raised $60,405 for the election, according to the campaign contribution report filed Wednesday, the last report before next Tuesday's election. Vaughn has about $28,000 still on hand.

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Matt Barton, candidate for the District 5 Georgia House set speaks at the Murray County Senior Center. The Murray County Republican Party hosted a meet and greet for candidates running for the District 5 Georgia House Seat on December 20, 2018. The seat was left empty with the death of longtime house member John Meadows.

Barton, meanwhile, received $21,876, according to the contribution report he filed Thursday. He still has $8,900 on hand.

About half of Vaughn's support comes from 15 members of the state House and Senate, including $4,000 from Speaker of the House David Ralston. Vaughn previously told the Times Free Press that Ralston has been friends with his parents for years, and they've practiced against each other in court. He said Ralston encouraged him to run for the empty seat after Republican John Meadows died in November.

"It allows me to have some starting points, some access," Vaughn said of the support from current lawmakers. "Obviously, those folks think a lot of me to support me. That's something I can use to benefit the district."

In December, Vaughn received a $2,600 donation from Meadows' old campaign fund, now administered by the former representative's family. Vaughn is friends with Meadows' son, and Vaughn's father spoke at Meadows' funeral.

Campaign contribution reports

Jesse Vaughn campaign contribution reports*
Contributions: $60,405
Expenses: $32,049
Cash on hand: $28,355
*Through Wednesday

Matt Barton campaign contribution reports*
Contributions: $21,876
Expenses: $12,976
Cash on hand: $8,899
*Through Thursday

Barton, meanwhile, received one donation from a current member of the legislature: state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, who contributed $1,400.

Barton filed his report this week one day after the deadline. He also filed a previous report, due on New Year's Eve, about three weeks late.

"It is what it is," Vaughn said, when asked if Barton's late filings are a problem. " ... It's up to the ethics commission to decide that. He doesn't want to follow their timeline, that's up to them."

Barton did not return multiple calls seeking comment Thursday.

In a six-candidate race on Jan. 8, Vaughn finished first with 33.7 percent of the vote, while Barton was second with 23.1 percent of the vote. Georgia law requires a runoff when no candidate receives more than half of the votes.

Vaughn, a former local Democratic Party chairman who became a Republican around 2008, has received the endorsement of Scott Tidwell, who finished third in last month's election. Larry Massey Jr., who finished fourth, has backed Barton.

Early voting in the race began Monday and ends today. Through Thursday, 693 people had voted in Gordon County. In Murray County, where only residents in the southwest precinct can vote, two people have cast ballots early, officials said.

On Tuesday, polls in both counties will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.

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