Sunday, September 28, 2008
A race to watch: Greenwood County Sheriff
Four years ago, longtime Greenwood County Sheriff Sam Riley retired from the post. Sheriff Riley, a Democrat, was succeeded by now Sheriff Dan Wideman. Sheriff Wideman entered office with a great deal of goodwill, yet events changed that goodwill about midway through his current term as Sheriff of Greenwood County.
First, there was the growing presence of illegal drug activities in little towns in the county such as Ninety Six. Then there was the Ware Shoals High School sex scandal. The alleged details of sex, cheerleaders, alcohol and National Guard members led to national headlines.
However, despite the headlines and the local and national outrage, the criminal case did not go well. Former Ware Shoals Principal Blackmon had all charges dropped against her and even brought a lawsuit against Sheriff Wideman and others. Jill Moore, the cheerleading coach at the heart of the controversy, entered a PTI program and will have her record expunged upon completion.
Such a result was hardly the “pound of flesh” local folks wanted from people accused of such scandal. It created three different schools of thought around the café table and water coolers of Greenwood County. The first idea was that law enforcement cut a deal without going the distance. The second was law enforcement had to cut a deal because it botched up the investigation. The third was law enforcement went too far in going after the former principal. Add to those three thoughts, the idea that drugs are growing in small towns, and well, a tough situation develops for an incumbent Sheriff, fair or unfair. That is just reality.
Enter the scene Democrat Tony Davis, who started his campaign for Sheriff from Iraq. That is right, from Iraq, where Davis worked as an instructor to Iraqi police. I know it how it is for so many of us Republicans to simply dismiss a Democrat, but Davis deserves a second look. Davis won two purple hearts in Vietnam, and after earning his college degree from Lander, worked his way up in the Greenwood County Sheriff’s department to the rank of Major in charge of investigations. Davis has graduated from most of the available law enforcement programs. Add to that a surprising level of grassroots support.
Of course, incumbent Sheriff Wideman is no slouch. The Sheriff has his own impressive resume. The Sheriff also benefits from being a Republican in an increasingly Republican county in South Carolina. However, when I take into account all the chaos Wideman has dealt with as Sheriff and how some dear friends of mine in Greenwood who are Republicans are going to vote for Davis, I have to note that this race is one to watch. Conventional wisdom says that Sheriff Wideman should win re-election. However, this race is shaping up to be anything but conventional.
The Greenwood County Sheriff’s race is shaping up like a great football game with the intangibles unknown. One would not want to bet on one side or the other, but one who really loves the game can’t wait to see how it turns out.