Voters will have another crack at picking a Republican candidate for sheriff in the upcoming August 5 runoff between the top two contenders - Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton and Newton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Bill Watterson.
Cotton narrowly missed avoiding a runoff in the July 15 primary, receiving 49.09 percent of the vote to Watterson's 28.14 percent, according to the unofficial results from the board of elections, which includes absentee ballots. At least 50.01 percent was needed for an outright win.
Cotton said he hoped to avoid a runoff.
"Myself and my campaign team, we're going to start working and keep working and ask the Newton County voters to continue to support me," he said. "We believe that we have support. We've just got to work for some other votes."
Watterson expressed regret at not being able to personally meet more people, despite taking a week off to campaign door-to-door. His goal had been to visit every neighborhood in the county, he said.
"We've got a lot of good people working," he said. "We've got to keep up the momentum."
The unusually crowded race was marked by general civility and a last minute push by many of the candidates in old-fashioned door-to-door campaigning.
Residents also had multiple opportunities to hear the Republican candidates for Sheriff at three forums, the Voter's League forum, a forum recorded and broadcast on Covington Cable Channel 22, and the Republican Party forum.
But money may have had the last word, as the three candidates that reported spending the most in campaign materials and advertising were the top three vote-getters - Cotton, NCSO Lt. Ezell Brown, who won the Democratic nomination, and Watterson. Cotton spent by far the most, almost twice as much as Brown and nearly five times as much as Watterson.
Low voter turn-out also marked this primary, with only about 21 percent of registered voters actually making it to the polls, compared to 46 percent in the February presidential primary.
The question of who to support now lies with voters who backed the other Republican candidates, NCSO Capt. Marty Roberts, who received 1,087 votes or 17.75 percent, and DeKalb County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Cowan, who received 307 votes, or 5.01 percent.
Roberts said he was disappointed at not being in the runoff but was glad he had run and enjoyed the experience.
"I wanted to get my name out there and show the voters they had a choice in the matter," he said.
The NCSO jail manager carefully refrained from endorsing any of the remaining candidates, instead putting out a call for voters to return to polls for the runoff.
"I hope we can get those people back to vote again," he said. "They need to look at both of the candidates and try to find out as much as they can about both of the candidates and make an educated decision."
The top five precincts where Watterson's did the best, compared to Cotton, were City Pond, Covington, Fairview, Gum Creek and Oxford.
Cotton's top five precincts, compared to Watterson, were Livingston, Mansfield, Newborn, Stansells and Town.
Precincts that had more Democratic voters turn out for the primary than Republican were Almon, Beaverdam, City Pond, Livingston and Town.
Other August 5 primary runoffs include candidates Kathy Morgan and Hubert White for the Democratic nomination for board of commissioners chairman and Democratic District 3 candidates Jimmy Clark and Nancy Shultz.
Registered voters will be able to vote in the runoffs, even if they did not vote in the primary, according to Newton County board of elections Director Donna Morrison. Those who did vote in the primary will only be able to vote in that same party's runoffs. Those who did not vote but were registered will be able to choose in which party's runoffs they will participate.