Our Sheriff’s race has been quite a roller coaster ride this year. First we had candidate Tony Roberson (former Polk County deputy) throwing his hat in the ring two years ago as a Republican candidate, we also knew that Jason Wease (business owner) was going to run as a Democrat as he has declared he would run each time back in 2013.
The current Sheriff Chris Francis (age 48) who has been in office for twelve years was not ready to retire so he would be running again. Then Steve Theodoropoulis (former Florida HP and Fed Air Marshall) who ran in 2018 announced he would also be running as a Republican candidate.
The man to beat at that time was the incumbent Sheriff Chris Francis. Sheriff Francis had twelve years worth of record to try to defend and in the past few years a lot of questionable things have gone on in his department. This being said between deaths at the jail, officer actions and lawsuits Sheriff Francis decided to pull out of the race.
This action put quite a monkey wrench into the strategy and campaigns of the other two candidates who had been gearing up to run against Francis. Now they had to focus their campaign on who would be the better candidate for the job. As they were trying to change direction there was another development in the race.
NC DMV Officer Aaron Ellenburg put his name in the hat to run in the Republican primary. The other two candidates tried to tie Ellenburg with Francis even though he did not actually work for the Sheriff’s department.
This started the negative campaigning right out of the gate. So many negative things were said and posted on social media about each of the Republican candidates it was hard to keep tract of them. Jason Wease did as he has done in the past and totally stayed away from the negativity surrounding the other candidates.
The Federal government then tossed us a curve ball and moved the primary from February to May trying to make sure all state districts were represented as fair as possible.
Then, Lo and Behold, Republican candidate Tony Roberson decided that the Republican Party was not aligning with his personal beliefs and was being run by Word of Faith Fellowship. He pulled out of the Republican primary race and decided to run as an unaffiliated candidate. This required him to get enough signatures to be put on the final ballot, which he did. He is in fact still a registered Republican but is running independent of their party.
So….whew! (dizzy yet?) The primary was finally held in May with Aaron Ellenburg being chosen as the Republican Party’s candidate for Sheriff. This set up a ballot with Ellenburg (R), Wease (D), and Roberson (U).
As the race went on the negativity just got uglier. One huge point of contention was the fact that Roberson’s pick for Chief Deputy, should he win, was former disgraced Sheriff’s Deputy Jamie Dunn. As you may recall he was fired, charged, and convicted for excessive violence against a restrained person in the jail. (see video here)
It was implied on social media that Ellenburg had no real law enforcement experience and was a “pick” of current Sherriff Francis so nothing would really change. Wease who stayed away from all the negativity just continued to run his campaign for change in his own style.
Now to mention another twist in this race. Roberson had a woman arrested and charged with posting malicious statements on social media. She was pursued for eight months at great personal expense to only have the charges dropped on the day of her hearing.
Then several months later Roberson himself was sued for posting inaccurate things with malicious intent on social media about someone else. (head spinning now?) He stopped posting things after that but his Chief Deputy pick Dunn continued to post things going so far as to dig up old text messages between people from years ago and posting them.
Early voting started on Oct 20th. It will end on Nov. 5th with the final election being held on Tuesday Nov. 8th. You can vote for the candidate of your choice regardless of party (if there is a choice in a race) or not vote for any of them if you choose. It is important to go vote even if you leave some races blank. It sends a message of dissatisfaction to that candidate for sure.
The point however is that the Sheriff’s race is a local election. Whoever wins still will have the taste of that negativity in their mouth after the campaign. Those feelings do not just magically go away the day after the vote comes in. Neighbors, friends, and families remember the hurtful things said and done by each other. These wounds will fester for a long time.
We all are neighbors and members of this community. No matter who wins we all must learn to get along and let the hurts of this election be behind us. I hope that the damage can be repaired and that all can support the winner. This county has serious issues in the Sheriff’s office and especially the jail. Issues that will take everyone’s input and help to try to correct. Hopefully all will support the winner of this race and allow them time to try to correct the problems they will face when they take office.
This is not an episode of Highlander. No one needs to lose their head. No matter how many run for an office there can be only ONE.