With two-thirds of the precincts reporting, Chief Deputy Ronnie Strength had the drop on Lt. Leon Garvin in the Richmond County sheriff's race.
With 58 of 72 precincts reporting, Mr. Strength had 21,144 votes, or 75.84 percent, to Mr. Garvin's 6,746 votes, or 24.18 percent. Write-in candidate Woodrow Fryer's votes had not been completely tallied.
|64% of precincts reporting||
Sheriff Charles Webster, who did not run for a fifth term and backed Chief Strength, predicted he would be the best sheriff Richmond County has ever had.
"I'm very happy, and I know Ronnie will make the best sheriff Richmond County has ever had," Sheriff Webster said during a phone interview from Mr. Strength's victory celebration headquarters at the Double Eagle Club on Washington Road.
"He's got all the potential. He is the most professional lawman I've ever known. I'm proud of him, and I hope he's sheriff for a long time."
Arriving at election central in the Municipal Building, Chief Strength expressed appreciation to Richmond County voters.
"Folks in Richmond County, as I said from the onset, have been great to me," he said. "I had a great steering committee. We had a great group of volunteers. Everybody worked day and night, and, of course, the citizens have been great. And that's who made it possible for me. And I appreciate them so much."
He also voiced appreciation to Lt. Garvin for conducting a clean campaign.
"I would like to say both Leon and myself took the high road from the get-go," he said. "His camp were gentlemen, just like our folks were. I'm just as proud of him as I am my camp. And we were friends when this election started, and we'll be friends when it's over."
Chief Strength said he probably would be back at work in the sheriff's office today. He has been on leave of absence since qualifying in April.
Mr. Strength has been second in command of Richmond County Sheriff's Department since 1989. He joined the department in the early 1970s, then left for a job in business until 1976, when he returned to the sheriff's department.
Sheriff Webster said he backed the former chief deputy because he knows he is honest.
"I've watched him very carefully for a long time," Sheriff Webster said recently.
Mr. Strength was able to campaign with a well-stocked treasury. He received a record-setting $216,092 in campaign contributions.
Mr. Garvin received $23,686 in campaign contributions, and Mr. Fryer got $3,315, according to campaign contribution disclosure forms filed with the Richmond County Board of Elections.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.