Richard Roundtree narrowly defeated Scott Peebles in the Democratic runoff for Richmond County sheriff Tuesday, by doing what few expected – persuading almost 2,000 more supporters to come to the polls than had on July 31.
Roundtree got 13,712 votes (50.83 percent), while Peebles received 13,265 votes (49.17 percent), according to unofficial vote totals of the Richmond County Board of Elections. Roundtree will face Republican sheriff’s primary winner Freddie Sanders in the November general election.
Roundtree said the vote was a “nailbiter,” but the results, in his opinion, are a validation for the city of Augusta.
“I think the citizens of Augusta responded and said we’re not going to let them dictate our destiny,” Roundtree said.
The poll numbers tell the story. Roundtree, a schools public safety lieutenant, garnered 1,968 more votes than his July 31 primary total, but for Peebles, a sheriff’s captain, his total diminished by 673 votes.
Roundtree said after the unofficial results were posted that his biggest fear was disappointing his team and the citizens of Augusta. Going forward to November, Roundtree said, his message and his vision for innovating the sheriff’s office will remain the same.
He agreed that he was the underdog going into the race and facing off against a candidate with more support, endorsements and money.
“They threw everything they had at us, but we held our heads high,” he said.
Kyterian Jones said he supports Roundtree because of his views on education and youth and the wealth of law enforcement experience he can bring to the sheriff’s position. Roundtree believes in second chances, he said.
“He is the best qualified candidate,” Jones said.
The final total hit like a collective body blow at Peebles’ watch party on Azalea Drive. Stunned supporters stared at the figures and gasped.
Peebles was quick to make a short speech after the finally tally was posted.
“Our opponent ran a great race and he pulled it off tonight,” he said. “We need to look forward to the future and move forward together. I don’t want anybody to be antagonistic about it. Let’s have a positive attitude and do what’s best for this city and get behind whoever wins this election.”
Peebles said what he had feared would happen came to pass.
“Our folks just didn’t come out,” he said. “I knew there was that danger, and that is what happened.”
Helen Blocker-Adams, a Peebles supporter, said voters became too complacent and expected Peebles to win without trouble.
“They thought we got it in the bag,” she said. “They took it for granted.”
Blocker-Adams said Roundtree worked hard the past three weeks to motivate his base and it worked.
“He got real creative with what he had and hit hard, hit hard, hit hard,” she said.
She expects a similar result in November with Roundtree defeating Sanders in the general election.
“For all intents and purposes, Richard Roundtree is the next sheriff of Richmond County,” Blocker-Adams said.