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Clayton County sheriff's race heats up

Surprise! Hill will have challenge in November

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Garland Watkins addresses supporters Tuesday. Watkins qualified as a write-in candidate for sheriff in November opposite his former boss, Victor Hill.

Photo by Kathy Jefcoats Clayton County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Garland Watkins addresses supporters Tuesday. Watkins qualified as a write-in candidate for sheriff in November opposite his former boss, Victor Hill.

JONESBORO — Victor Hill, next sheriff of Clayton County?

Not so fast, said Clayton sheriff’s Chief Deputy Garland Watkins, throwing a monkey wrench into Hill’s best-laid plans to retake the office of sheriff after a four-year hiatus.

With a stroke of a pen and a well-placed legal ad, Watkins qualified Tuesday to run against would-be sheriff-elect Hill as a write-in candidate in November. Hill is facing a 37-county felony indictment for crimes he allegedly committed during his term in office, 2005 to 2008. He is set to go to trial Nov. 26 — 20 days after the election that could change the course of the county.

The prospect of having a person in the sheriff’s office who is facing years in prison if convicted has some people concerned, said Watkins.

“I’ve had so many phone calls from people who are concerned about the office of sheriff and where it’s going,” he said. “There is a cloud of uncertainty about the sheriff’s office. I gave it some thought and prayer and decided to go ahead and do a write-in campaign.”

It is said that politics makes for strange bedfellows and this situation almost requires a program to sort the players. Hill was elected Clayton’s first black sheriff in 2004. On his first day in office — January 2005 — he fired 27 deputies. Watkins, a lieutenant, was one of them.

Watkins, 50, had worked at the sheriff’s office since 1986, his entire law enforcement career. When the deputies reached a settlement with the county over the firings, Watkins transferred to the county police department in 2007. In 2008, Watkins joined a handful of other law enforcement officers who qualified to run against Hill in an effort to unseat him. Watkins finished third, with 14 percent of the vote, behind Hill and Kem Kimbrough. Kimbrough narrowly won a run-off with Hill and took office in January 2009. He brought Watkins in as chief deputy.

In January, a Clayton County grand jury indicted Hill on 37 felonies related to his duties as sheriff. After his 2008 defeat, Hill ran unsuccessfully for state senate and vowed to make a third run for sheriff. The indictment proved no barrier to his either campaigning or winning against Kimbrough.

However, with Hill the apparent sheriff-elect after another narrow run-off — and his conviction far from a certainty — his opponents scrambled to find another way to keep him out of office. Kimbrough, who was out of town Tuesday, gave Watkins his blessing in taking on the challenge of winning a write-in campaign, said sheriff’s Capt. Brian Crisp.

Watkins said he is up to the task.

“I’m running to give people a choice,” he said. “People who know me know I have integrity, character and am an outstanding leader. I want to use those qualities to prevail over Victor Hill.”

Watkins promises to run a clean campaign.

“I want to focus on the issues of the office,” he said. “Victor has legal problems that in itself are obstacles for him. With something like that hanging overhead, nobody should look to attain the office of sheriff, not with the question of conviction looming over him.”

Hill could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday but maintains his innocence and has pleaded not guilty.

Hill’s attorney, Steve Frey, said he wishes Watkins well.

“I’ve known Garland a long time, I like him and don’t wish him any ill-will,” he said.

Should Hill prevail in November, his ascension to office is not guaranteed. He will go to trial Nov. 26 and faces years in prison if convicted. If convicted of any felony, he will not be eligible to take office Jan. 1. An interim sheriff will likely be appointed and a special election may be held.

Comments

GEEMAW 2 years, 1 month ago

I am thrilled to know I will have someone else to vote for in November other than Victor Hill. Good luck and God bless Mr. Watkins.

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

......."It's not over, until the fat lady sings".......Welcome to the race, Garland.

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sunny 2 years, 1 month ago

So Garland is running as a Republican in 2012?? Didn't he run as a Democrat in 2008?? Mmmmm....how convenient. What a joke!

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sadbutnotsurprised 2 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for giving us hope and inspiration, Garland. Godspeed on your efforts.

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jan_cook 2 years, 1 month ago

StrongEmphasisGood Garland Watkins. I would vote for you and your policies if I still lived in Clayton County. I began working with Garland, years ago at the old Jail in Lovejoy. Always thought of him as honest and a good deputy, on the side of the law.

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

.....Clayton County usually has a very low turned out, during the Democrat Primaries; It will be interesting to see how this unfolds in our General Election.

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gapeech 2 years, 1 month ago

So what if he was a democrat and now a republican. I registered democrat just to get to vote for sheriff. Does not mean I am voting for Obama in Novemeber. Thank goodness someone else stepped up for CC.

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

....The feat to this, is the Voters will go against the grain of their loyalty to the Democrats, and have to write in the correct name of Garland Watkins.

......A most difficult task to achieve in this county......or, maybe not. We can tell by the amount of Votes cast, verses the Votes for Sheriff during the General Election.

.

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purplehaze 2 years, 1 month ago

I want to know how the county let someone that been in jail, and has been indicted be allowed to put his name on the ballot???? Because if convicted there will either have a nother election or the governor will to appoint someone. Isn't that correct. Clayton County has been the laughing stock of the state long enough.

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SgtFranklinRock 2 years, 1 month ago

Garland Watkins is having a campaign kickoff tonight, Thursday, Sept. 30th at 250 South Main Street in Jonesboro. The campaign HQ is located between Pat & Jerry's and Pro-Tree Service. Map: http://goo.gl/maps/6Gwmf Come out and be a part of this historic Campaign!

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

Atlanta Press Club Debates Series 2008

Videos from Primary Election Debates Jul. 10, 2008

VICTOR HILL ( Declined ) KEM KIMBROUGH
SHERMAN LEMON
ERNEST STROZIER
GARLAND WATKINS

...Scan down this page to The Clayton County Sheriff Jul. 10, 2008

http://atlantapressclub.org/debate-series/

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

.....Garland Watkins for Clayton County Sheriff ........is on facebook

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

....For those that don't already know :

....In order to write in a candidate, the candidate's name has to be spelled correctly. I would advise everyone the write down the name, double check the spelling, and take the paper with you when you vote.

GARLAND WATKINS

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

......This was when Victor Hill defeated Kem Kimbrough:

Election Summary Report Clayton County State of Georgia Primary Election Runoff August 21, 2012 Summary For Jurisdiction Wide, All Counters, All Races Official and Complete

Cards Cast : 24,344

Registered Voters : 150,788

VICTOR HILL : 12,931 - 53.68% KEM KIMBROUGH (I) : 11,160 - 46.32%

http://www.claytoncountyga.gov/election/20120821/2012_0821_final_official.htm

....The General Election with be the Main Event Election, because of the loyal support to Re-Elect President Barack Obama.

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SgtFranklinRock 2 years, 1 month ago

Keep visiting http://www.watkins4sheriff.com campaign information and appearance details. Volunteer to the Campaign TODAY!
DONATE, DONATE, DONATE.
This is a Grass-Roots effort. Recruit 10 firm voters that will recruit 10 firm voters. The integrity will multiply!

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

......I'm a rather peaceful person and I try to get along with everyone, however, The last time that I donated any money to one of Rock's "Grass-Roots" efforts, I was out $70. dollars, I was banned, black balled, and I was slandered for my efforts. It was called "Give 'Em The Boot". I had my stroke, while posting on that Forum and since then, I have been harass, called names, and looked down upon by him and his cohorts. ....If you wish to Donate to Watkins Campaign, Please do this without having a middleman.
.....I still have my Pay Pal receipts......I was called DoubleAction II ( DAII )

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OscarKnight 2 years, 1 month ago

...Let it be known that I never lend any amount of support for Victor Hill or Kem Kimbrough, for The Sheriff of Clayton County, Georgia. I did all that I could to oppose their candidacy. I'm glad to see a candidate worthy of my support, with Garland Watkins.

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CP678 2 years, 1 month ago

Victor Hill is an embarassment to the residents of Clayton county. His antics brought unwanted/undeserved state and national attention to our county throughout his tenure as sheriff. His actions as sheriff directly cost our county residents millions of taxpayer dollars. The embarassment continues as he is under indictment and trial for numerous crimes. 16% of Clayton County registered voters cast ballots that elected Hill, who beat Kimbrough by a slim margin. I can only imagine that the only reason that Hill received any votes was that voters just did not know Hill's history in our county. Highly recommend Clayton County residents recruit friends and acquaintenances to participate in this write-in campaign to add GARLAND WATKINS TO THE NOVEMBER BALLOT and avoid another serious mistake for our county.

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OscarKnight 2 years ago

.....Victor Hill was placing his Deputies all over this county, to harass the citizens for minor traffic fractions. Traffic fines is another form Of Taxation, and the business of handing traffic tickets is a Multi-Billion Industry.

....Hill was a "supposed be" Constitutional Officer of this county, but his Deputies had many law abiding citizens afraid to drive in this county.

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