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Former Sheriff Davis donates $4,000 in sheriff's race

Sheriff Charlie McDonald and challenger Erik Summey appeared at a candidate forum on April 9. Sheriff Charlie McDonald and challenger Erik Summey appeared at a candidate forum on April 9.

Seventeen current or former Sheriff's Office employees contributed money to Henderson County Sheriff Charlie McDonald's election campaign but a donation from one departmental retiree to another candidate might have been the least expected.

Former Sheriff Rick Davis, who resigned in December 2011 amid a public outcry over an insurance payment to settle a complaint a female deputy's complaint, donated $4,000 from his old campaign account to Erik Summey, one of three candidates vying for the Republican nomination for sheriff in Tuesday's primary election. The winner will face Democrat Martin Katz in the Nov. 4 general election.

The Summey campaign received the check from the Committee to Re-Elect Rick Davis on Jan. 10. The donation was contained in campaign finance reports for local offices filed with the Board of Elections this week.
The reports showed McDonald with a sizable fundraising advantage over Summey and Michael Brown. The incumbent, who was appointed to the job in March 2012 after Davis took medical leave and then resigned, raised $32,324, spent $23,715 and had $17,560 cash on hand. Counting his fundraising in 2013, McDonald has raised a total of $53,010.
Brown, a State Highway Patrol trooper who also ran for sheriff in 2002 and 2006, raised $25,780, spent $23,476 and had $2,304 cash on hand. Summey, the Fletcher police chief, raised $24,132, spent $19,801 and had $4,330 cash on hand.
After he won election to the job in 2006, Davis declined to retain Summey. Summey had been one of several high-ranking officers interested in the vacancy created by George Erwin's decision to retire as sheriff before his term expired.
"I hadn't talked to Rick in a long time and of course his brother Ron is a captain here" at the Fletcher Police Department, Summey said. "Rick had contacted me back in January and we had a conversation. He indicated there was still funds in his campaign account and he was willing to donate it to my campaign."
Summey said he did not worry about the public having a negative perception of the Davis donation.
"I think everybody pretty well knows what happened," he said. "He still did a lot of good for the department. A lot of people still think about him (positively) up until things happened the way they did."
Although the former sheriff's identical twin is a high-ranking officer in his command, Summey had had little contact with Rick Davis before January. Summey said Rick Davis was living in South Carolina and was not employed in law enforcement. Davis could not be reached for comment.
As for Davis donating to an officer he declined to keep on the force in 2006, Summey said the two had mended any differences they had when Summey joined the Fletcher force and Davis was sheriff in early 2009. After going from the Henderson County to the Buncombe County sheriff's department, Summey joined the Fletcher PD, rising to assistant chief and then chief.

Susan Varnadore, a tax preparer in East Flat Rock, closed out the Rick Davis campaign account on Feb. 3 with the donation to the Summey campaign and a payment of $2,425 to her firm, Varnadore & Associates, for accounting services. Susan Varnadore is married to Mac Varnadore, the former chief deputy for Sheriff George Erwin. She is also Summey's campaign treasurer and the aunt of Summey's wife, Julie Varnadore Summey.
Among donors to McDonald's campaign was former sheriff Erwin's wife, Kathy ($860), local Tea Party leader Ron Kauffman ($320), County Commissioner Michael Edney ($165), former Chief Deputy Rodney Raines ($725), Maj. Gloria Nock ($823), Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Rose of Asheville ($250), Maj. Frank Stout, $1,075; County Manager Steve Wyatt ($100), Swain Ballard, a retired Fletcher police officer ($120), and the Apodaca for Senate campaign ($2,000). McDonald gave his campaign $1,088. His wife, Jennie, an administrative assistant for District Attorney Greg Newman, gave $774.
Among donors to Summey's campaign were former Sheriff's Capt. Ben McKay ($340) and the Southern States PBA ($1,000). Summey gave his campaign $5,500.
Among donors to Brown's campaign were retired sheriff's deputy Cliff Eubanks ($1,200), former Rutherford County Sheriff's Deputy Gregory Cochran, who was chief deputy under Davis ($1,600), former Hendersonville City Council member Jeff Collis ($200), and Capps Logging Co. owner Harley Franklin Capps Jr. ($5,000).
Board of Commissioners candidate Tim Griffin, who retired from the Sheriff's Department last month, donated $151.54 to Summey's campaign and $250 to Brown's campaign.