Republican candidate for Troup County Sheriff James Woodruff won the majority of votes in Tuesday’s election, but still will face a runoff with Democrat Ruben Hairston on Dec. 4.
“We got a victory tonight and we need one more,” Woodruff told supporters late Tuesday as the final numbers were announced.
Woodruff received 11,021 votes to Hairston’s 9,270, with independent challenger Clay Bryant bringing in 5,192.
“I want to thank my family for standing behind me and the people of Troup County who believed in me and came out and voted for me, and my volunteers who worked so hard,” Woodruff said. “We will start again, and keep doing what we’re doing. I would ask my supporters to please come out again on Dec. 4.”
Hairston also thanked his supporters for getting him to the runoff.
“I’ll keep getting out and shaking hands and meeting people,” he said. “People kept telling me with three people, it would be hard to pull off, but I was hoping and praying we would win tonight.”
Both Hairston and Woodruff said they would seek the support of Bryant, who did not return a phone call for comment.
Woodruff, a Republican, faced a rocky road to Tuesday night’s election results.
Woodruff had defeated current Sheriff Donny Turner in the primary election July 31, but not by enough of a margin to avoid a runoff. The third candidate in the July race, Danny Harrington, threw his support behind Woodruff after coming in last.
The last month of the primary campaign, before the July vote and the eventual runoff, had turned divisive. Turner was caught on tape threatening the current job of a former employee of the sheriff’s office who he had found out was campaigning for Woodruff.
It also was revealed that up to $300,000 in bail bond forfeitures had gone uncollected in the sheriff’s office over the last 10 years when the Daily News requested the information from state court Judge Jeanette Little. Turner and Troup County Clerk of Court Jackie Taylor, who aided in the collection process, insisted they had done nothing wrong and District Attorney Pete Skandalakis said nothing illegal had happened. But documentation obtained by the Daily News showed Turner and Taylor avoided any attempts to sit down and discuss the bond issue with county attorneys and state court officials.
Before the Republican runoff, a political action committee named Troup Mothers for a Safe Community formed on Aug. 8 and sent out a flier with false information about Woodruff. It was revealed that week after former state Rep. Jeff Brown did an open records request that former state Sen. Dan Lee, who is Turner and Taylor’s attorney, paid the registration fee for the Mothers group with the Georgia Secretary of State.
Woodruff has been working as the business manager at the Troup County Correctional Institution. He has 20 years experience in law enforcement as a jailer, deputy, patrol supervisor, public information officer, jail administrator and chief deputy. He was an adviser for the sheriff’s office explorer post, which was a program designed for young people ages 14 to 21 who were interested in law enforcement. As jail administrator, he was responsible for the daily operations of the jail and overseeing all inmates and jail personnel. As chief deputy, he was responsible for the daily operations of the entire sheriff’s office which included hiring new personnel and overseeing the departmental budget.
Hairston did not face opposition in the July primary. Hairston has 29 years’ experience in law enforcement, beginning as a sheriff’s deputy in Peach County. In 1982, returned to Troup County as a deputy sheriff. From 1983 to 1990, he worked as a constable in the Troup County marshal’s office and from 1990 to 2005, he served as chief marshal. From 2005 to 2010, he worked as a homeland security investigator.
Bryant has 30 years of law enforcement experience, including with the Georgia State Patrol, Hogansville Chief of Police, and investigator for the Coweta Judicial Circuit. He currently is an investigator with the Georgia public defender’s office.
Bryant is the first person to make a successful independent bid for sheriff in Troup County.