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Six sheriff's candidates raise, spend tens of thousands

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The six candidates for Clayton County sheriff have spent more than $114,500 in preparation for Tuesday's primary election.

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has raised more than twice the amount of any of his challengers, according to campaign disclosure reports, and he has spent more than any of the other five have brought in.

Hill has raised $73,000 in his re-election bid, and has spent more than $44,900, committing a lot of his campaign budget to billboards. Hill, who has had a controversial first term, went into campaign season with more than $48,000 in his war chest, and has, since April, raised another $25,000.

His campaign contribution disclosure report shows he has received donations from area businesses and entrepreneurs, and also from individuals from around the state. Free at Last Bonding gave Hill's campaign $1,000, and John D. Stephens, the man who sold land to the school system in a controversial deal, gave $1,000 toward the re-election bid. The largest contribution came from Lovejoy Realty, LLC, which donated $2,300 in June.

The first contribution to Hill's campaign in the reporting period, however, was actually $300 from No Su Yim, a Lawrenceville woman who manages a Korean restaurant, according to the disclosure report.

Hill has spent more than $24,000 since April, with about half the money going to billboards, and the other half to signs and mailings.

Among the challengers, Kem Kimbrough has raised the most money. He has received more than $36,300 in campaign contributions.

An attorney for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and former commander of the jail, at the sheriff's office, Kimbrough has received a lot of money from attorneys and consultants, according to his campaign disclosure report. He called in contributions from consultants as far away as New Hampshire, with Albert Jones and Rick Jones donating $250 each, and Washington D.C., with consultant Arleigh Greenblat contributing $300.

The county's attorney, Jack Hancock, personally gave $250 to the Kimbrough campaign, the report shows.

The Kimbrough campaign has spent about $33,300, spending more than $25,000 since April. The biggest single expense for Kimbrough has been on political consultants. The disclosure report shows Kimbrough paid Landmark Communications, a Duluth company, $18,000, between April and June, for "professional services" and "campaign advertising."

Kimbrough has also spent campaign money on signs, web site maintenance and block parties, according to the form.

Garland Watkins, a lieutenant with the police department, who was in the sheriff's office until he was fired by Hill on Hill's first day as sheriff, has also pulled in a lot of campaign contributions. His campaign's disclosure report shows $26,000 in contributions.

Watkins received contributions from police officers, with Greg and Barbara Haralson each giving $500, and from State Court Judge John Carbo, who donated $200, according to the disclosure form.

Watkins has spent about $12,000, with about $2,300 spent on radio advertising and $2,500 spent on printing. His campaign had almost $14,000 on hand, going into July, more than any of the other contenders.

The lieutenant's war chest, though, is almost 50 percent personally funded. Watkins, who received a settlement from the sheriff and the county for his wrongful firing, has put $15,000 of his own money into his campaign.

Sherman Lemon, in his pursuit of the sheriff's office, has paid for almost everything out of his own pocket.

The retired Clayton County Police Department major has $8,000 in campaign debt. Since April, he's only accepted three campaign contributions of amounts over $100, and two came from family members in the end of June.

Besides the qualifying fee, the disclosure report shows, Lemon spent his money on "campaign literature," including T-shirts, magnetic signs, post cards, posters and buttons.

According to the disclosure report, the Lemon campaign spent about $8,000 and had about $3,600 left, going into the final two-week stretch before the July 15 election.

The Ernest Strozier campaign had spent most of its money, bringing in $15,000 in contributions and spending more than $13,000, according to the disclosure form.

Strozier, a lieutenant at the College Park Police Department, wrote most of his campaign checks paying for campaign management: paying Michael Murphy and Bernice Guity to run his election effort and hiring two accounting firms, between April and June.

No one has spent less money in the race, thought, than the Republican, Jack Rainwater, who isn't facing any opposition on the county's GOP ballot in July. He has spent $2,900. Most of that -- more than $2,800 -- went toward qualification.

Rainwater, a security consultant, who put up $2,300 of his own money, has said his campaign is "laying back," until a winner emerges from the crowded Democratic field.