Three of four candidates for Coweta County Sheriff favor making the race non-partisan.
At a forum on Tuesday, Randolph Collins, Doug Jordan and Lenn Wood all said they would like to see the race be non-partisan on the ballot. Only James Callaway favored keeping the Republican-Democrat labels, saying having the designations is information voters can use.
The forum, sponsored by the Coweta County Repubican Party, was held at Trinity Church near Sharpsburg. Mike Crane, a former state senator and Coweta resident, was the moderator.
Wood has been acting sheriff since Mike Yeager, the longtime sheriff, resigned after being appointed a federal marshal.
“Coweta County is so very diverse now. It shouldn’t matter what party you’re a member of,” Wood said.
“When you come to jail at the Coweta County Jail, we don’t ask what your party affiliation is,” Wood said. “We ask lots of questions, but that’s not one of them.”
“I will enforce the law as it is written, and I’m not going to be shy about that. We still have to be responsive to every single person in this community,” Collins said.
“I think the sheriff along with the judges should be nonpartisan. We represent the community,” Collins said. “I believe we should be open to the community in every way.”
“Lady Justice is blind. It doesn’t matter much money you’ve got or how much money you don’t have,” Jordan said. The sheriff must administer “equal law for everyone” without regard to race, religion or any other factor,” he said.
Talking about the current system, which lists sheriff candidates by party in the general election, Jordan said, “It shouldn’t be on the ballot that way.”
“If people ask me, I’ll tell them I’m a Republican. What I feel and what I believe doesn’t go along with what the law says sometimes. I have to enforce the law. That’s the oath we take, and I take that oath seriously,” Wood said.
Callaway said many voters do not conduct exhaustive research into the candidates and that the party label can help them.
“It should remain partisan for that reason – for the voter to choose someone who aligns best with their belief system,” he said.
“I am going to be equitable and fair, but I do think it’s important to let people know where I stand,” Callaway said. “For many voters it does matter to see that R/D.”
Candidates also commented on term limits – again with a three-one split. Jordan spoke forcefully for a two-term limit for sheriff, and all other elective offices, but the other three preferred to let voters decide.
“I was asked to run because a lot of people were tired of the same old thing,” Jordan said.
“There need to be term limits,” he said. “Any elected officials – you’re in office too long, you just seem to take advantage of the situation.”
“That’s a tough question. I think the public needs to decide,” Collins said. “The voters need to decide when it’s the time for change.”
“I don’t believe there ought to be term limits on the sheriff’s race,” Wood said.
He said a sheriff who does a good job will get re-elected and one who does not will likely lose the post.
“I don’t think there should be a term limit,” Callaway said.
He also said that a good job by the sheriff and staff “will be visible for everyone to see.”
A non-partisan special election for sheriff will be held June 18.