John Darr soundly defeated incumbent Ralph Johnson and write-in candidate Mark LaJoye in Tuesday's race for Muscogee County Sheriff.
Darr won 60 percent of the vote to Johnson's 40 percent and had 18,000 more votes than Johnson after absentee ballots were added to the precinct tallies from across the county.
"It's an exciting time," Darr said. "I'm excited and I think this is a great opportunity for a new beginning in the Sheriff's Office and for us to do some positive things in this department and also to do some positive things for this department in the community. The citizens deserve something better."
Johnson's convincing loss came despite a recent full-court press to explain his actions in the aftermath of the December 2003 shooting death of Kenny Walker, who was killed by a Muscogee County Sheriff's deputy during a drug investigation.
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"He runs a great race," Darr said of Johnson. "I don't want to say nothing negative about him. It was never about him. It was truly an opportunity to do some postive things in this community. I believe that and I mean it and that's what we're going to focus on."
Before advance voting numbers came in, Darr led with was leading 57 percent and 39,185 votes. Johnson had 29,335 votes giving him 43 percent of the vote. Darr garnered 18,960 absentee ballots while Johnson pulled in 10,526 absentee ballots.
The son of a military family, Darr was born in Fort Benning in 1966. After graduating from Hardaway High School in 1984, Darr earned his associate's degree at Columbus State University. In 1988, Darr joined the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office, where he worked for 20 years before retiring to focus on his campaign for Muscogee County Sheriff.
As sheriff, Darr said he would restore public trust in the office, assure the residents of Muscogee County have the highest level of protection and service, and prepare the department for future challenges.
Darr has four children with his wife, Linda Darr, and attends Britt David Baptist Church.
Johnson was born in 1956 in Columbus and is a graduate of Columbus High School. He received a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Columbus College and in 1998 completed a master's in public administration from Columbus State University. Johnson is a graduate of the FBI National Academy as well as the Georgia Chiefs of Police Command College.
A 26-year Sheriff's Office veteran, Johnson won a special election in November 1990 to fill the unexpired term of Sheriff Gene Hodge. He was re-elected sheriff of Muscogee County in 2000.
Johnson was running on his experience in the position he's held for nine years and his education within the field of law enforcement. He couldn't be reached early Wednesday morning for comment.
Mark LaJoye has more than 30 years of combined military and law enforcement experience. After leaving the Army in 1992, LaJoye joined the Columbus Police Department, where he worked for five years until he was accepted into the Juvenile Diversion and Conditional Discharge Programs. LaJoye was selected to be a part of the Office of Homeland Security for Muscogee County after Sept. 11, 2001, before being called back to active duty for the Army.