Update: Tompkins still leads in Muscogee sheriff’s race

Caroline Hugley and Donna Tompkins at the Muscogee County Democratic Party headquarters on Macon Road to watch as the election results come in during the night, Tuesday November 8, 2016
Caroline Hugley and Donna Tompkins at the Muscogee County Democratic Party headquarters on Macon Road to watch as the election results come in during the night, Tuesday November 8, 2016 photo@ledger-enquirer.com

Democrat Donna Tompkins still is leading the Muscogee County Sheriff’s race with 20,525 votes to incumbent John Darr’s 16,529, with 25 of 26 precincts reporting, plus a portion of the early vote.

Republican Mark LaJoye had 9,593, and 1,567 write-ins were recorded, presumably for Pam Brown.

A long road

It was a long, twisted road to the finish line for Muscogee County sheriff’s candidates following a path that wound through meeting rooms and courtrooms to the ballot box.

At one point the county elections board had disqualified all the candidates except incumbent John Darr, starting with two Democrats it kicked off the ballot March 30 for missing a deadline to submit fingerprints for a criminal background check.

Those candidates, Pam Brown and Robert Keith Smith, appealed to Superior Court. A judge upheld the board’s decision April 21.

Then on May 2, the board disqualified Donna Tompkins, the remaining Democrat, and Republican Mark LaJoye for missing a deadline to submit an affidavit swearing they graduated high school. That left only incumbent John Darr, who ran as an independent.

Then Tompkins and LaJoye appealed to Superior Court.

“At this point, y’all are having a sheriff’s election without any candidates?” the judge hearing the appeal asked during a hearing May 16.

In two decisions delivered May 19 and 20, he overruled the board, and Tompkins and LaJoye remained on the ballot. Brown and Smith did not.

Smith dropped out. After considering an independent run, Brown opted for a write-in campaign.

So going into Tuesday night, that’s how the race was set: Darr, the incumbent; against LaJoye, the Republican; Tompkins, the Democrat; and Brown, the write-in.

And it was going to be a long night, after a big turnout not only of early voters but of those casting ballots on Election Day, plus the need to examine write-ins to determine voter intent were it not obvious.

When early voting ended at 7 p.m. Friday, Columbus had 32,733, more than the 32,012 in 2008, but fewer than 34,123 in 2012.

A total 70,962 ballots were cast here in 2012, a 60 percent turnout of all registered voters. The early vote was 48 percent of ballots cast.

In 2008, the total voting was 74,428, of which the early vote was 43 percent.

Currently the total number of registered voters in Muscogee County is 131,025. In 2012, it was 120,879, and in 2008 it was 118,302.

A big turnout

Despite the heavy early vote, several of Columbus’ neighborhood precincts still were swamped Tuesday. Here are some examples:

  • The St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 4980 Hancock Road, has 6,011 active voters, and 2,588 voted early. By 2:42 p.m. Tuesday, 1,468 more had voted there, bringing the total to 4,056.
  • At the Cornerstone Church of God, 7701 Lloyd Road, the early vote was 1,837. It has 4,647 active voters. By 3 p.m. Tuesday, 1,271 more had voted there.
  • With 5,221 active voters, the precinct at St. Mark United Methodist Church, 6795 Whitewville Road, had 2,382 early votes. By 2:41 p.m. on Election Day, 1,405 more had voted, boosting the total to 3,787.
  • At the North Highland Assembly of God, 7300 Whittlesey Blvd., 1,741 voted early, and by 2:51 p.m. Tuesday, 1,048 more had cast ballots, so the total was 2,789 with four hours left to go. That precinct has 4,226 active voters.

These are the candidates in the Muscogee County Sheriff’s race:

MARK LAJOYE, Republican.

Age: 56

Profession: Owner and president of Umbra Tactical Consultants; Alabama National Guard soldier.

Experience: Served more than 36 years in the U.S. Army as a senior non-commissioned officer with two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan; police officer, Columbus Police Department, trained in SWAT, FBI hazardous devices technician; adult and youth substance-abuse counselor; jointly served with the Muscogee County Emergency Response Team as senior bomb squad technician; supervised 150 special operations soldiers in the rescue and relief effort in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina; task-organized the first provincial police force in the Orzgun region, Afghanistan.

Education: Masters, criminal justice, Southern New Hampshire University; bachelors of science, criminal justice, Troy University; associate of science, general education, Troy University; over 6,000 hours of military and police training; National Rifle Association firearms instructor; NRA range safety.


Age: 52

Profession: Retired as a captain from the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office

Education: Master in Public Administration, Bachelor of Science Criminal Justice, Georgia Law Enforcement Command College Graduate.

Experience: Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office, captain over human resources and administration; lieutenant, jail shift commander; lieutenant, Office of Professional Standards; sergeant, field services, administration; deputy sheriff, field services, jail.

JOHN T. DARR, independent.

Age: 50

Profession: Sheriff.

Education: Graduate, Hardaway High School, Columbus; two years at Columbus State University.

Experience: A 28-year career in the sheriff’s office, having served in the jail, field services, investigations and the fugitive team.

PAM BROWN, write-in.

Age: 58

Profession: Security.

Education: Three years of college with a major in criminal justice.

Experience: Correctional officer, 1987-1990; deputy sheriff, 1990-2011; sergeant, 2000-2002; lieutenant, 2002-2012; certified corrections counselor, 2012 to present; served in the Metro Narcotics Task Force and as a lieutenant supervising the sheriff’s investigative unit; board member, the Georgia Civil Process Association; emergency responder to domestic biological incidents; trained in dealing with domestic violence, incident command, sex offenders, drug interdiction (K-9), and courtroom security; equal opportunity counselor.