Clayton Sheriff's race moves forward

By Daniel Silliman


In the week after the run-off election, the Democratic candidate for sheriff tried to calm some supporters, and the Republican candidate started attacking.

Kem Kimbrough -- the winner of the Democratic primary in an overwhelmingly Democratic county -- was talking about "transition" and his efforts to reach out to sheriff's office employees.

"I want to get back to normal," Kimbrough said. "I want to reassure all of the employees that life moves on. There's no planned upheaval. There will be no major changes. I'm just going to set the bar high, and as long as people can keep up with me, they're fine."

On Friday, Kimbrough said he knows some of his supporters have lists of sheriff's office employees they would like fired, people they identify as loyal to Sheriff Victor Hill, but Kimbrough said he's not going to go into the office the same way Hill did when he fired deputies on his first day.

Kimbrough said he has told these supporters, who feel wronged by the sheriff, they are vindicated by the election.

"And they understand," he said. "They may say it, when they're sitting around and having a couple of drinks ... but they know that just to have Victor Hill booted out of office, that's all they were looking for. So let's not keep the pot stirred up."

The Democratic candidate has not yet received a concession from Hill, however, and he believes some sheriff's office employees are afraid they'll be fired if they talk to him. Kimbrough said he would like to be able to talk to deputies, tour the facilities and talk to Hill about making the transition from administration to administration. Kimbrough said he was looking for an intermediary to set up a possible meeting.

"Even if we don't talk about a transition, that would go a long way toward eliminating the air of uncertainty," he said. "We're moving on, moving forward, moving on from the past and toward a bigger and brighter future."

The Republican candidate, Jack Rainwater, said Kimbrough is moving too fast, though.

"He hasn't won, yet," Rainwater said. "When I said I was running for sheriff, I was running for sheriff."

Rainwater did very little campaigning before the July primary, waiting to see who his opponent would be in November. Some said he was only running as a "last line of defense" against the controversial sheriff and that he would drop out if Hill didn't win his primary challenge. In the days after the runoff, Kimbrough said he didn't know "what's going to happen, in terms of this general election challenge," but on Monday, Rainwater was running aggressively, accusing Kimbrough of being presumptuous.

"I have been contacted by numerous employees who say they've worked for Kimbrough, and don't want to again," Rainwater said. "I believe I have a little more humility than he does."

Kimbrough, citing security concerns and the assassination of a sheriff-elect in DeKalb County in 2000, has received some security from the county police, since the Aug. 5 vote. Kimbrough said it's "really a minor thing" and declined to say more about it. Rainwater attacked the security as a waste of taxpayers' money, arrogance, and a demonstration of why Kimbrough shouldn't be sheriff.

"It's called 'equal protection under the law,'" Rainwater said. "There are people out here in this county that think something could happen to them everyday, but they don't get a police car parked at their house."

Rainwater has been dismissed by some observers, who say Clayton County won't vote for a Republican.

In February, almost 85 percent of county voters identified as Democrats in the presidential preference primary. In 2006, in the general election, Republicans in county-wide races lost by landslides, bringing in under 30 percent of the votes.

Rainwater said that shouldn't matter in his bid, because he's really an independent or a "demo-publican" who only has a party identification on the ballot because it's hard to get enough signatures to qualify as an independent.

He said his phone has been "ringing off the hook" since the primary runoff, and that his campaign signs would start going up this week. He said he plans to have his campaign volunteers organized by the end of August.

"We're getting out there totally now," Rainwater said. "My opponent would certainly like to see me drop out of the race, but I'm running to do something for the people."

Kimbrough said that while he and his campaign staff were "soaking in" last week's victory, they have not stopped campaigning and are in "tip-top shape" for the general-election race. The election will be held on Nov. 4.