By The Outsider
The race for Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff got it's fifth candidate today, and its first Republican. Augusta attorney Freddie Sanders threw his hat in the ring, and says he will run in the Republican primary. If he has no other GOP challengers, Sanders is guaranteed a spot on the General Election ballot. On the other hand, the Democratic side of the ballot is getting crowded with already 4 candidates announcing their intention to run, including RCSO Cptn. Scott Peebles, who is viewed by most political analysts as Sheriff Strength's hand-picked successor.
Real Candidate or Insurance Policy?
Whereas many political insiders view Freddie Sanders as a formidable candidate in his own right, some people see his candidacy as more of an insurance policy in case Cpt. Scott Peebles is unable to take the Democratic nomination for Sheriff. Afternoon talk radio personality Austin Rhodes wrote on The Augusta Chronicle comments section: "Freddie (Sanders) is rich...R-I-C-H...and he would make an AWESOME Sheriff...but he is only going to do it IF Strength's guy (Peebles) does not make it out of the Dem primary."
Austin may be on to something here. There is growing unease among some high level political power brokers who are backing Peebles that an expanding candidate field and a competitive GOP primary for the 12 district congressional race could deny Peebles the nomination.
The first complication for Peebles is coming from Lt. Robbie Silas who is Sheriff Strength's brother-in-law. Silas has already racked up some key endorsements from former Sheriff Charles Webster and former State Senator J.B. Powell. Also, Sheriff Strength's wife is backing her brother in the race (Silas). Some say that is creating a bit of a family feud in the Strength household, but Mrs. Strength denies those claims.
Another problem for Peebles is that the man who has groomed him for the job, Sheriff Ronnie Strength, has said he will not endorse anyone until AFTER the July 31st primary... but that may come too late for Peebles, who's strongest challenge will come in the primary, not the General Election. With Strength staying mum and his wife openly backing Silas, along with former Sheriff Webster, many voters may think that Sheriff Strength is also supporting Silas behind the scenes, but many political insiders tell us that the Sheriff is backing Peebles, but many voters may not be aware of that.
Silas has strong support on the Southside and could split the white vote with Peebles, who is counting on strong turnout from West Augusta to propel him to victory. However, the competive GOP race for Congress could muck that up. A good chunk of Peebles' support is coming from Westside Republicans, but his name will appear on the Democratic ballot. Will enough Republicans switch over and skip the competitive GOP congressional race to vote for Peebles in the Sheriff's race? Rick Allen, a West Augusta Republican competing in the congressional primary is hoping that doesn't happen. He will need all of the Republican votes he can get in Richmond County to surge past challengers State Rep. Lee Anderson, Columbia County attorney Wright Mcleod, and Dublin attorney Maria Sheffield. Either, way it seems like someone will end up as a political casualty over the hotly contested Sheriff's race: Will it be RW Allen or Scott Peebles?
These are the dynamics at play that have some political power brokers nervous about Peebles' candidacy and they want an insurance policy.... just in case their worst-case scenario happens: Richard Roundtree squeaks through and gets the Democratic nomination for Sheriff.
Enter Freddie Sanders
If anyone would have a good chance of winning The Sheriff's race as a Republican in heavily Democratic Richmond County, it would be Freddie Sanders. He definitely qualifies as a political heavy weight with high name recognition. Sanders also has a strong law enforcement resume spanning decades serving as Richmond County Police Chief between 1983-1985. That position was abolished prior to consolidation. Since then, Sanders has earned a reputation as a no-nonsense attorney who is greatly admired and respected by his colleagues. And by the way, did we mention that Sanders is loaded? We mean his bank account.
For a Republican to beat a Democrat in the General Election for Sheriff, especially someone like Roundtree, it's going to be by heavily outspending them, and Sanders has the resources to do that. A competitive Democratic primary could easily drain most of the cash from the campaigns of candidates like Roundtree. He would have to scramble to replenish his campaign, while Sanders would be flush with campaign cash just waiting and sitting pretty for November.
But there's a bigger question at play over all of this.. why isn't the Sheriff's race non-partisan like most other local races? Well the answer seems obvious.. it's all about political power and for years the Democratic party controlled who was elected Sheriff.. but now Democrats are in the minority in state government. But changing a county constitutional office (Sheriff) to a non-partisan race would affect every county in the state.. and the political parties are not going to want to give that up.
The other option would be to abolish the position of Richmond County Sheriff and go to a Police Department with a police Chief appointed by the commission. But with demographics shifting in Richmond county, white Republicans are probably not going to be so keen on that idea, plus that would give up a lot of the autonomy and political power associated with The Sheriff's office. So for all practical purposes, for the foreseeable future, this will remain a partisan position.
But for a Sheriff's race that promises a lot of political drama, Freddie Sanders just made it even more interesting. If a scenario does develop that keeps Peebles out and keeps Sanders in, we can be assured of a very interesting General Election race for Sheriff.. something that Richmond County is not accustomed to. More to come.
UPDATE: Freddie Sanders has stated that he is in the Sheriff's race to win it and will remain on the ballot regardless of who his Democratic challenger is. Well this is getting interesting. We shall see what happens if Peebles does get the Dem. nomination. Will Sanders stay in or bow out and back Peebles as some political observers expect? Or could he provide more drama for the General Election and walk away with it all to become the next Sheriff of Richmond County? One thing you can say for sure, this race will not be boring.***
- Sheriff's Race Getting Crowded; Southside Mafia Backing Silas
- Peebles Announces Run for Sheriff; Silas Could Be Starting a Family Feud
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