The Republican race for Troup County Sheriff will be decided in a runoff on Aug. 21.
Neither Sheriff Donny Turner or challenger James Woodruff received 50.1 percent of the vote with Tuesday night. Turner received 44.13 percent (4, 364 votes) and Woodruff received 44.72 percent (4,442 votes), with all but provisional results counted.
“We knew a runoff was possible from the beginning,” Woodruff said late Tuesday. “I appreciate the support of the people. We will keep taking the message to the people and get them back out to vote on Aug. 21.”
Woodruff gathered with family and supporters Tuesday night as the returns came in. Turner hosted a party at Del’Avant downtown where he told a Daily News reporter he had no comment.
Danny Harrington, the third man in the race, received 11.15 (1,103 votes) percent of the vote. He pledged his support Tuesday night to Woodruff.
“That was a commitment we made when we first started, that if it came down to a runoff, one would support the other,” Harrington said. “I’m a man of my word and I will stick to it.”
Harrington said he was pleased to make an impact on the election, particularly with no law enforcement experience.
The winner on Aug. 21 will face Ruben Hairston in November’s general election.
The sheriff’s race turned heated in the last weeks of the campaign when a former employee of Turner’s caught the sheriff on tape threatening his job. The employee, who now is the head of security at West Georgia Health System, is a Woodruff supporter. Turner said in an email to the Daily News that the threat was a momentary lapse of judgement in the heat of battle, since he had helped the employee originally relocate to LaGrange.
The employee left the sheriff’s office seven years ago.
Turner also faced questions in the last days of the campaign about how he handled the collection of bond forfeitures, money collected when a defendant fails to show up for court. Records kept in Troup County State Court showed more than $300,000 had gone uncollected in the last 10 years and State Court Judge Jeanette Little had begun looking into the matter several years ago.
Again refusing to answer questions from the Daily News, Turner took to his re-election Facebook page to defend his practices, saying he audited 10 years of bond forfeitures he’d collected and saying that the district attorney had found no wrong-doing.
“Approximately 500 man hours went into conducting this audit, and there were thousands spent in legal fees in its completion. This 650-page audit was forwarded to the County Commissioners and the District Attorney. They agreed on the findings. I can only collect on the bonds that lawyers tell me to collect that are legal. Those in question contained judicial errors; and, cannot be collected due to those errors,” Turner said.
Turner also took to the public forum earlier in July to say he had done an audit of the circulation of the LaGrange News in an effort to move the county’s legal advertising to another publication.
When the LaGrange News requested copies of the audit findings, neither the sheriff’s office or the Troup County manager’s office had such findings.