City Ink: Richmond County sheriff election is going to the dogs

When Augusta resident Jeanne Cleveland received a voter registration form from the NAACP addressed to McGregor Cleveland, she couldn’t figure out where they got her dog’s name.


“How in the world did anybody come up with McGregor Cleveland?” she asked. “I know they vote dead people, but I didn’t know they vote dogs, especially dead ones.”

McGregor, a West Highland terrier, died about two years ago, but there his name and address were on an envelope containing voter registration documents partially filled out and a hand printed note to “Please fill in boxes 4, 5, and 6.”

Box 4 had spaces for phone number, date of birth, gender and race. Box 5 had spaces for driver’s license or Georgia ID number, and Social Security number. Box 6 had spaces to check “yes” or “no” for citizenship and whether McGregor would be 18 before Election Day; spaces to date and sign an oath affirming his address, eligibility, and that McGregor has not been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude or is not mentally incompetent.

As it turns out, McGregor’s voter registration form was one of five million mailed in 27 states by the Voter Participation Center, which targets minorities and unmarried women for various clients, such as the NAACP.

Look for another mass mailing of registration forms and absentee ballots in August.

Lynn Bailey, the Richmond County Board of Elections executive director, said such mailings have been “trickling in the last couple of months” and that there’s nothing illegal about them.

Ineligible applications will be weeded out through the state’s application process, which involves matching application information with Social Security and driver’s license data, she said.

A WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOIN’ ON: A play in one act.

Dramatis Personae:

Jerry Lee, a black and white terrier

Elvis, a black Labrador retriever

Waylon, an Australian shepherd

Hank, a bloodhound

Emmy Lou, a long haired dachshund

Loretta, a black Irish setter

Willie, a scruffy mongrel


Scene I

(Four dogs are lying in the bushes panting when a black and white terrier comes up and barks.)

Jerry Lee: Great balls of fire, it’s hot! My name’s Jerry Lee, and guess what I got in the mail from the NAACP?

Elvis: Hi, Jerry Lee. I’m Elvis, and I’d be all shook up if you didn’t say it’s a voter registration form.

Jerry Lee: How’d you know?

Elvis: Animal instinct. And we all got the same form.

Jerry Lee: What did you do with them?

Elvis: We mailed them to the Board of Elections, and now we’re registered to vote. Well, all of us but Waylon over there. He ate his.

Jerry Lee: I’m going to mail mine, too. I’ve always wanted to be registered and not just a mutt all my life. What party should I say I’m in? Republican or Democrat?

Elvis: I registered as a Democrat so I could vote in the sheriff’s race.

Emmy Lou: You don’t have to be a Democrat to vote in the sheriff’s race. You can cross over and vote in the Democratic primary. That’s what Loretta and I are gonna do. Aren’t we, Loretta?

Jerry Lee: (scratching his ear) Well, I sure didn’t know that. I just might do the same, but I’m going to think about it while I take a breather under this bush, if you don’t mind.


Scene II

(Emmy Lou jumps up and starts barking. A scruffy mongrel comes toward them.)

Emmy Lou: It’s Willie! Willie, where have you been? You didn’t even call.

Willie: But you were always on my mind. You were always on my mind.

Emmy Lou: Come on in. We were just talking about who we’re gonna vote for in the sheriff’s race. Did you get a registration in the mail like we did?

Willie: No, and I wouldn’t vote anyway. I hate government, especially the law and the IRS. And I won’t be here because I can’t wait to get on the road again. On the road again. I just can’t wait to get on the road again.

Elvis: Well, I’ve narrowed my choice to two – Richard Roundtree and John Ivey.

Emmy Lou: Why?

Elvis: Because I think they’re the best candidates, and they’re black like me.

Emmy Lou: Roundtree’s not black. He’s tan like me. I’m gonna vote for him.

Jerry Lee: If we’re voting along color lines, who should I vote for since I’m half and half?

Emmy Lou: I don’t know. Maybe you oughta run for president. I thought about votin’ for Robbie Silas, but he’s a road deputy, and when he sees me out runnin’ the streets, he calls animal control.


Scene III

(A bloodhound wanders up and sniffs Loretta.)

Hank: Hey good lookin.’ What you got cookin’? My name’s Hank. Move it on over. Move over little dog. The big dog’s movin’ in.

Elvis: (growls) If you’re lookin’ for trouble, you came to the right place.

Hank: I’m not lookin’ for trouble. I’m just so lonesome I could cry.

Jerry Lee: Well, walk right in and sit right down. We’re just talking about how we’re all registered to vote and who we’re going to vote for, for sheriff. Are you registered?

Hank: Yes. I got this registration form in the mail. I’d planned to vote in the Republican primary, but I’ve decided to vote Democrat because I saw the light.

Loretta: I’m votin’ for Peebles. Elvis, what would it take for you to vote for Peebles?

Elvis: Money, honey. My man is Roundtree.

Waylon: Even among us, the vote is split, so you know with four candidates in the primary, there’s gonna be a runoff. I just wish I hadn’t eaten my registration form, darn it.

Emmy Lou: I’m bettin’ on Roundtree and Peebles in the runoff. And the winner will face the winning Republican in November. It’ll be close, and one of ’em will win by a hair.

Jerry Lee: Until then there’s gonna be a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.


STRANGER THAN FICTION: This has to be the strangest sheriff’s race in the history of Richmond County.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength groomed Capt. Scott Peebles to take over when he retired, putting him out front in three major undercover operations and making it clear he would endorse him this year.

Then Strength’s wife, Patti, with the help of some south Augusta politicians wanting to resume the role of kingmakers, made an end run around Ronnie and pushed her brother Robbie Silas into the race. So there Ronnie was, torn between a commitment to Peebles and family peace.

Understandably, he chose family peace and announced he would not endorse anybody until after the July 31 primary. Well, he isn’t the first man, and he won’t be the last, to be snookered by a good-looking woman.

Now Peebles is the target of a smear campaign by operatives of opposing candidates. But it won’t stick.

Look at candidate Richard Roundtree. When he was with the sheriff’s department, he had three female deputies fighting over him at a substation in the Econo Lodge and had to be transferred to restore peace, and I don’t think that has hurt his candidacy one bit.

So will the sheriff endorse Peebles if he comes out ahead in July, over his longtime friend Freddie Sanders if Sanders wins the Republican primary?

I think I know what he’ll do if Silas wins.

But then, as I said earlier, this has to be the strangest sheriff’s race in the history of Richmond County.