Sen. Chuck Payne answers a question during a candidate forum for the May 22 primary Tuesday, April 24, 2018 at Southeast Whitfield County High School in Dalton, Ga. Payne, the incumbent, will be running up against Scott Tidwell for the District 54 State Senate seat in the upcoming primary election.

This story was updated May 22, 2018, at 10:56 p.m. with more information.

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Incumbent state Sen. Chuck Payne's decision to oppose a bill that would have created a separate driver's license for some immigrants did not end up costing him in the Republican primary. The Dalton lawmaker unofficially edged out challenger Scott Tidwell in the District 54 Republican primary, 4,999-4,459. The results have not been certified.

Payne could not be reached for comment late Tuesday night. He will face Democrat Michael Morgan, who ran unopposed in his primary and received 1,564 votes, in November.

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Scott Tidwell speaks during a candidate forum for the May 22 primary Tuesday, April 24, 2018, at Southeast Whitfield County High School in Dalton, Ga. Tidwell is running up against Sen. Chuck Payne for the District 54 State Senate seat.

Payne claimed the state Senate seat in a January 2017 special election when he defeated Debby Peppers with 65 percent of 6,771 votes. The election was held to replace Charlie Bethel, who was appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to the court of appeals.

Tidwell announced he was running after Payne voted against a bill in the Senate Public Safety Committee that would have created a new "Driver's Safety Card" for immigrants who hold work permits but do not have lawful status. Payne's vote killed the bill, 5-4, on Feb. 21. He and state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick voted with three Democrats, while all four supporters were Republican.

Tidwell, the pastor of a small church and an assistant funeral home director, claimed that Payne had "aligned with the left-wing Democrats at our state capitol on the issue of illegal immigration."

Tidwell will remain active within his party, he said, and will continue his work as a pastor and at the funeral home.

"First of all, I want to congratulate Chuck," he said. "It was a good race. I'm honored to receive the support of so many. I've enjoyed listening and meeting the voters of the 54th District. It's now time for us as a Republican Party to come together and move forward. The people have excercised their right to vote and chosen who they wanted. We need to unite together as a party and fight for our rights. Just because this primary is over doesn't mean we need to stick our heads in the sand. We need to hold our elected officials accountable."

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook @ChattanoogaOutdoors.