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Kimbrough, Benefield take courthouse

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Clayton County voters were decisive in the sheriff's race, and definitive in their choice of a superior court judge.

The voters chose experience for the Harold R. Banke Justice Center, giving the judgeship to the incumbent Judge Deborah Benefield and looked for newness in the sheriff's office in selecting Kem Kimbrough, a former sheriff's office major.

With 51 of the 60 precincts counted, Kimbrough appeared headed for a landslide. The attorney, who once rewrote the policies and procedures for the sheriff's office, led his Republican opponent by more than 19,000 votes.

Jack Rainwater, the former Atlanta police officer, never pulled more than 23 percent of the vote, and his numbers drooped as the night went on.

Kimbrough said that after a long campaign, beating four Democratic opponents in the primary and incumbent sheriff, Victor Hill, in a runoff, he was ready to start.

"I'm tired of talking and speculating," said the sheriff-elect. "I'm interested in getting to work, and we're going to start pulling people together and putting plans into place. Now, we can start making this county better."

Polling more than 80 percent of the vote, Kimbrough said he succeeded by bringing a lot of people on board and appealing to a cross section of the county's citizens.

"I'm here to serve all of Clayton County's citizens, and I intend to do that," Kimbrough said. "We reached out to everyone and we talked about what we were going to do."

In the non-partisan race for judge, Incumbent Deborah Benefield showed the same ability, winning in every precinct, and maintaining an overwhelming lead from the start.

Benefield was running for her third re-election, against Murble A. Wright, a defense attorney who promised to be the voice and champion of the community.

On election night, the community gave Wright only a little more than 25 percent of the vote, with 51 of the 60 precincts counted. At about 11 p.m., Wright trailed Benefield by more than 11,000 votes and she never came close to catching up.

Benefield posted a strong lead at the start, taking three-quarters of the vote, with 30 percent of the precincts counted. With a little more than 50 percent of the vote counted at about 10 p.m., Benefield held 74 percent of the vote.

She maintained that lead until the end.

Benefield campaigned on her experience, telling voters her long record of service was a reliable predictor of how she would preside. She said she was tough, but fair, and someone who followed the law, personally, and professionally.