Democrats vie to be new sheriff in town

Democrats vie to be new sheriff in town
April 26
08:30 2018

Three Democrats vying to replace Sheriff Bill Schatzman were met with cheers and even a few jeers at a standing- room-only debate held at the Forsyth County Library last week.

Schatzman was first elected in 2002 and faces Ernie Leyba in his primary. Schatzman is touting the county’s 14 percent decrease in crime between 2004 to 2017 and his department’s reaccreditation in his campiagn.

Democratic candidates Tim Wooten, Bobby Kimbrough and Clif Kilby told attendees they could do better.

“We’ve had too many problems with the Sheriff’s Office; you’re not getting your money’s worth,” said Wooten. ”It’s time for some changes, and that’s why I’m running for sheriff.”

Wooten has 40 years of law enforcement experience with the Winston-Salem Police Department, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and as police chief in Cooleemee, N.C. Kimbrough has been in law enforcement for 32 years, including serving as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Kilby has served in the Armed Forces and spent 26 years in the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

The crowd jeered Kilby early on when he opened with attacks on Kimbrough, including comments about Kimbrough’s campaign manager, “recent articles” showing “problems” with Kimbrough’s campaign and that the former DEA agent’s training is similar to Schatzman’s, resulting in the same “issues.” The crowd loudly reacted against these attacks.

Kilby was referring to an article on donations Kimbrough’s campaign took from four people who’ve been in the sweepstakes business. In the past, they gave money as part of an effort to lobby the governor and state lawmakers on laws involving sweepstakes parlors, which the General Assembly attempted to ban, but they continue to operate across the state due to litigation and alterations they’ve made to comply with new laws. One of the donors is the brother of Kimbrough’s campaign manager, Cynthia Hagie, who has said she recruited Kimbrough because of the opioid crisis, which has affected her family and friends.

The campaign has said that the donations weren’t about sweepstakes, and that three out of the four donors got out of sweepstakes when the law changed. Kimbrough reiterated that last week, and said that nothing could influence him to “not enforce the law” and “do what’s right.”

“For 30 years I’ve enforced the law– 20 years as a special agent with top secret clearance. I can’t be bought,” said Kimbrough.

None of the candidates mentioned sweepstakes parlors in the campaign issues on their websites, nor did any candidate or moderator bring up the issue aside from mentioning Kimbrough’s donors.

Kilby was asked about switching parties to run as a Democrat. Kilby said he joined whatever party the sheriff was in because there was pressure to vote for the sheriff he worked for. Board of Elections records do show that Kilby was a Democrat in the1980s when there was a Democratic sheriff.
“I believe with me having both sides, I’ll be able to serve the whole county better than anybody else,” said Kilby.

Kilby left the Sheriff’s Office in 2002 and ran as a Republican in 2014 when he received 8 percent of the vote in the primary. He’s said publicly that he switched to being a Democrat because he’d have a better chance in a General Election against Schatzman.

All three candidates touted their experience with big drug cases. Kimbrough said he’s investigated opioids on the local, state, national and international level with the DEA. Wooten said he’s worked national drug investigations through task forces that included one of the largest seizures of drugs on land in state history in Cooleemee, with 4 tons of marijuana and $1.4 million of cash seized in one investigation. Kilby said he was stationed in Turkey for a year during his military service and part of his assignment was monitoring the drugs and the black market.

On opioids, all the candidates talked about becoming part of a drug task force, increasing the existing drug unit and getting those with addiction the help they need. All the candidates said they value diversity and would work to increase it in the department while giving employees equal opportunities.

On police brutality, Wooten said that he would set a good example, increase training and wouldn’t tolerate brutality, profiling or racism. Kilby said he didn’t know why African-Americans were more likely to be on the receiving end of police shootings and said he’d keep “pounding” on the officers “to do the right thing.” Kilby said officers are trained to react to what they see, so race shouldn’t be a factor. Kimbrough said officers should respond, not react, to what they see.

He said they should have more training and have a background check every five years.

All the candidates said there were too many deaths at the local jail. They all said they’d fill vacant guard positions and aren’t happy with the current health care provider there. Kimbrough said it was a “low bid situation” where the county “got what it paid for” and he’d increase the contract for that service, which Wooten agreed with. Kilby said the county commissioners should have rejected the bid from the jail’s current health care provider.

Wooten and Kilby opposed consolidating the forensics unit, which has had the Sheriff’s Office relying on the WSPD for forensic services. Wooten helped start the county’s own crime scene unit, and want to bring that back if elected.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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