Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill and Sheriff Kem Kimbrough face off during a debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club.
ATLANTA — Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough and challenger Victor Hill faced off in a political debate Wednesday morning for the first time in four years, trading insults and focusing on Hill’s pending 37-count criminal indictment.
On Hill’s first day in office in January 2005, he fired 27 deputies — a tumultuous act that set the tone for the next four years. He rounded out his term by filing for bankruptcy but he doesn’t think financial failure would impact his ability to manage a multi-million dollar budget.
“I don’t think that’s an issue,” he said. “It makes me one of the people.”
At several points during the debate, the candidates were allowed to ask each other questions. Kimbrough wondered about a court settlement Hill has yet to pay involving a former sheriff’s brother, and tied the question to some of the theft charges Hill is facing.
“What’s your financial plan to pay Mark Tuggle?” said Kimbrough. “Are you going to steal that money from the sheriff’s office?”
Tuggle was arrested in January 2005 for allegedly threatening Hill. Tuggle sued Hill in Federal Court and got a $665,000 judgment. But Hill said “that part” was dismissed. Given a chance to rebut, Kimbrough demurred.
“I have no need to rebut his silliness,” he said.
Hill was the incumbent in 2008 and Kimbrough the challenger when the two men last debated the issues. Kimbrough defeated Hill in a run-off.
Despite facing prison time if convicted, Hill won enough votes in July to throw the election into an Aug. 21 run-off. If Hill wins and is convicted while in office, the governor will have to appoint an interim sheriff. A special election will likely have to be held for the remainder of the term.
Visit www.news-daily.com or pick up Friday’s edition for a more complete account of the debate.