Thread: Great Sheriffs race article,,,
07-19-2008, 09:11 PM #1
Great Sheriffs race article,,,
Déjà vu in Walton sheriff's race?
July 19, 2008 - 7:07PM
With the primary election slated for Aug. 26, embattled Walton County Sheriff Ralph Johnson once again will face off against six Republican challengers vying to replace him.
They all vow to implement changes to a department that recently has been criticized by residents and county officials.
"Our current sheriff doesn't shine a good light on the county," said Tim Norris, who took over in May as chairman of the Republican Party of Walton County. "(He's) not communicating ... We need to see him, he needs to hear us. We need a sheriff that has his ear to the ground."
The similarity between the upcoming primary and the 2004 primary is almost uncanny. Four years ago, Johnson, a Republican, faced off against six challengers. Such a large field could again favor him because the winner needs only a simple plurality to advance to the general election.
According to the Walton County supervisor of elections Web site, Johnson so far has only $100 in his campaign war chest. Challenger Michael Adkinson, the city marshal of DeFuniak Springs, has collected $10,730.
That's followed by Tony Cornman ($5,500), Dennis Wise ($2,110), Richard Brown ($2,100), Thomas Cooper ($1,600) and Jimmy Macon ($570).
The lone Democrat in the race, Danny Griffith, has not reported any contributions.
"I'm just glad there's a lot of interest in the county and the GOP because of the race," said Jim Anders, who chaired the Republican Party of Walton County during the 2004 elections. "That'll bring out a lot of votes for all the elections in the county ... There's a lot of interest in politics right now, and that's good for our party."
However, having a half- dozen challengers in the primary could end up splitting the anti-incumbent vote and allow Johnson to advance to and possibly win the general election. In that scenario, the six GOP challengers would have inadvertently helped return to office an incumbent known more for his standoffishness than for his effectiveness.
"I think every candidate, if they're interested in change and improving the situation at the Sheriff's Office, should honestly evaluate their ability to run a campaign," said Adkinson. "Understand that every vote you take could be significant in returning the incumbent back to office."
That's what happened in 2004.
During the primary, Johnson garnered less than 30 percent of the vote, but that was enough to beat his six challengers. Five of them, instead of backing Johnson, threw their support behind Democrat Billy McKee in the general election.
In a county filled largely with Republicans, Johnson won the general election, albeit narrowly.
Candidates say they don't think the 2008 election will be end up the same way.
"With everyone in Walton County knowing what happened last time, I don't think it'll happen again because they don't want a repeat," said Brown, a former deputy who left the Sheriff's Office in June in order to campaign.
"It's up to us, the candidates, to market what we've got to as many people as we can, and it's up to the people to get out and vote," said Cooper, who added that after Johnson was re-elected in 2004, some Walton County residents and deputies he talked to expressed shock.
In recent months, the Sheriff's Office has experienced one problem after another. For example, state officials are investigating an elections-fraud complaint filed in May. It alleges that Johnson told Sheriff's Office employees to sign petitions to get his name on the November election ballot without having to pay the $6,555 fee.
In April, two former female deputies filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Johnson, accusing him of discriminating against them because of their gender after they became pregnant. Last year, Melissa Vause and Kristen Infinger were placed on the Family Medical Leave Act and later terminated. Their attorney said the case is slowly moving forward.
In February, Johnson requested a hearing with county commissioners to request funding for a new 911 system but failed to show up. The matter wound its way through the bureaucratic system to Tallahassee and back, and was finally resolved earlier this month.
The Sheriff's Office also has faced financial issues over the last year, including problems with the IRS after misreporting payroll funds and losing $16,000 in an apparent e-mail scam.
Johnson could not be reached for comment.
Norris said the Republican Party of Walton County is not endorsing any of the candidates in the primary, and he did not make a personal endorsement.
However, he did say that the winner likely will be the one "who has the best package," including prior law-enforcement experience, an understanding of budgets, and someone who can be a spokesman for the county.
"Obviously, some will be like cream in the coffee - they'll rise to the top. And some will shine more than others," he said.
The Following User Says Thank You to 5th Gen Local For This Useful Post:
07-20-2008, 09:30 AM #2
Great posting of this article, thanks.
I do believe that there is one piece of bad information in it. The dollar amount of contributions is incorrect. I know several of the candidates that have significant more funding donated (not on reflected by this article). Does anyone have the most accurate figures? I have heard that Tom Cooper is really gaining tremendous support.
07-20-2008, 09:40 AM #3
- Join Date
- Nov 2007
- DeFuniak Springs
07-20-2008, 12:17 PM #4
All this article does is aid and assist one person-Ralph Johnson. I am becoming more and more afraid that this type of talk is going to create a self-fulfilling prediction.
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