The field of candidates for Richmond County’s next sheriff was cut in half Tuesday, with one Republican advancing and two Democrats headed to an August runoff.
None of the four Democrats on the primary ballot was able to get a clear majority to win outright, but sheriff’s Capt. Scott Peebles and school Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree emerged with the most votes, placing them in a runoff election set for Aug. 21.
Peebles received the most, with 13,932, or 47 percent of the votes, to Roundtree’s 11,725, or 39 percent.
Peebles was exultant at his finish but urged his supporters to not let up and to continue campaigning for the next election.
“When we polled back here in March, we were going to lose this thing outright. You guys pulled us through and got us where we are right now,” Peebles said to the crowd at his election headquarters on Azalea Drive. “Please, please, do not go to sleep on me now; I need your help.”
Peebles said his team was meeting Tuesday night to start work on the next three weeks of campaigning.
“I really believe our message resonated,” he said. “I think people believe I can do what I say I’m going to do.”
Roundtree said he wasn’t disappointed with the results.
“Don’t think of this as a letdown at all,” he said. “We’ve got 21 days and we’ve got work to do. Our message is pure. We didn’t buy this campaign.”
Should he beat Peebles in the runoff, Roundtree would have a distinct advantage in the November election because the majority of Richmond County voters tend to lean Democratic. A win would make him the county’s first black sheriff.
On the Republican side, Augusta lawyer Freddie Sanders trounced opponent Mike Godowns, with 76 percent of the votes. Sanders will face the winner of the Democratic runoff in the November general election.
“We are tickled with how well we did,” Sanders said. “We will go after our opponent, whoever that is.”
Six men qualified to run in Tuesday’s primary: two Republicans and four Democrats. Of the two remaining Democrats – both sheriff’s employees – Lt. Robbie Silas had the best showing with 2,560 votes, about 9 percent, to Lt. John Ivey’s 1,662 votes, or almost 6 percent.
Ivey, the oldest of the candidates and the one with the most law enforcement experience, was disappointed in his last-place finish. He has said he might consider retirement from the sheriff’s force after the new sheriff takes over in January.
“I thought I would do a lot better than that. I don’t know what happened,” he said. “My hat’s off to the other two guys.”
Ivey wouldn’t say Tuesday whether he would support one of the candidates who advanced to the runoff.
“I’m still an employee of the sheriff’s office,” Ivey said. “I can’t endorse anyone.”
Silas, the brother-in-law of Sheriff Ronnie Strength, had strong support from voters in south Augusta precincts, but it wasn’t enough to surpass Roundtree for a second-place finish.
Silas released no statement after the election and did not return phones calls seeking comment.
Strength, who had been withholding any endorsement of a candidate until after the primary election, said he wasn’t making any immediate statement about whom he would support in the runoff.