There have been two distinctly different schools of thought emerge in the last week with the somewhat surprising victory of Richard Roundtree over Scott Peebles in the Richmond County Democrat primary for Sheriff:
1. That it was time for a black guy to be sheriff in this majority black county, so the naysayers need to get used to it, sit down, and shut up.
And contrasting that…
The power structure underestimated the popular appeal and voter support for a man they believe is ill suited to lead such a large department, and they will soon pull out all the stops to see that Roundtree never becomes sheriff.
In the last few days we have seen evidence of both philosophies at work. Roundtree has been meeting with a number of people who were associated with the Peebles campaign, and may be about to reach out to Scott himself to ask him to continue his work leading CID.
Peebles has so far been silent on a possible endorsement of Roundtree, because he knows in his heart that his major supporters would much rather see Republican Freddie Sanders become the next sheriff. Of course, that is going to be a tall order in Richmond County where, in 2004, Dems voted for John Kerry over George W. Bush by a 56-43 percent advantage, only to see Barack Obama come back four years later and beat John McCain in a 66-33 percent landslide. The only way a Republican could beat a Dem in such a race in Augusta this year would be if the Republican’s name was Condoleeza Rice and the Democrat’s name was Ricardo Azziz.
Motivated voters in the consolidated city of Augusta-Richmond County are not likely to skip another chance to vote again for our first black president, especially when they can also vote for the community’s first black sheriff a few slots down the same ballot.
The Obama Factor was likely the issue that sealed it for Peebles as he was preparing several years ago to run to replace his mentor Sheriff Ronnie Strength. He believed there was no way to win as a Republican, particularly if there were any credible opposition on the Dem ticket.
I have been asked repeatedly in the last few days how the well prepared, well financed and hard working Peebles lost in the Dem primary when no one ever came close to beating (or even seriously challenging) Strength, and the answer is simple: It is a bogus comparison because Strength never had any real competition.
Strength’s strength was that he commanded respect and inspired fear among his political enemies. That is about the only way a conservative white guy was going to dominate the local Democratic Party the way he did, so successfully and for so long.
As I wrote in this space last week, his predecessor Charlie Webster paved the way by ordering all credible competition to stay out of the way while setting the standard that the most successful warrior is the one who never goes to war.
Strength was unable to return the favor because of the silly presence in the race of his wife’s brother, Robbie Silas.
To Peebles credit, he was damn near able to pull off a victory anyway without Strength’s involvement in the original July 31 general primary. But when the runoff occurred, the young conservative white guy who was clearly the establishment’s choice was too easy to pick off in a rabidly left wing, anti-local establishment, Democrat primary. Roundtree shocked the world.
But Tree still has to get past his general election opponent, and there are those in our midst who believe he may never make it to the main event.
Sylvia Cooper was not exaggerating when she reported in her City Ink column that many of the department’s top people have begun to inquire about employment elsewhere because they do not want to work in a Roundtree administration. It appears Strength has had a (way overdue) wake up call, and is now neck deep in the “coulda-shoulda-wouldas.”
What does this mean? It means that every story, rumor, report and allegation concerning Roundtree’s history as a cop is going to be scrutinized. His associations, supporters and prospective appointees all are going to get the white glove treatment. If serious problems are discovered, it entirely possible that his Georgia Peace Officer’s Certification could be challenged.
And yes, a definitive answer is forthcoming in the controversy involving the legality of his qualifying paperwork a few months back. While Board of Elections/city attorney Andrew MacKenzie advised that Roundtree was in compliance with state laws concerning qualification questions, there are those who doubt MacKenzie’s judgment in the case. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office should have issued the definitive answer in that matter; watch for that request to be made soon. It still amazes me that the decision was not appealed in the first place.
Given the demographics involved, It is almost impossible to believe Richard Roundtree can not win over Freddie Sanders in November. But will it be an election or a legal battle that proves his greatest challenge?You Might Also Like: