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Challenger Lowell Griffin defeated Sheriff Charlie McDonald Tuesday in the Republican primary after a campaign that swung on issues that included a law enforcement training center, arming schoolteachers and the use of body cameras.

“We don’t know yet,” McDonald said with almost 90 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night. “It’s not looking real good. I would tell you I'm surprised.”
Earlier in the evening, Griffin said the campaign had been a rewarding experience.
“I’ve been able to meet people I would never have met before and that part has been really worthwhile regardless of the outcome,” he said at a campaign gathering at Grandad’s Apples on U.S. 64. He did not know then the outcome three hours later would be a stunning upset of the incumbent that he had worked for before his termination in November 2014. “I really didn’t expect to have this much support. We’ve got a crowd here. I’m overwhelmed with the amount of support we’ve had in this campaign.”
Appointed to the office in February 2012 after Sheriff Rick Davis resigned the previous November, McDonald ran as a reformer in 2014 and continued to talk about modernizing the department throughout his four-year term.
“We have buried once and for all the good ol’ body system that inevitably leads to inefficiency and corruption,” McDonald said during a campaign forum. “Despite what’s being said by those with axes to grind, I would submit that we can’t afford to turn back. We’ve shown Henderson County what can be accomplished when an agency comes together as a team to accept necessary change, embrace best practices and organizational management. Morale is high, our staff is well-trained.”
Among the issues that separated the challenger from the incumbent were body cameras — Griffin favors them, McDonald resisted them — and animal control in cities. But the issue that produced power at the polls and peril for McDonald was his proposed law enforcement training center — an idea that was both a three-year goal and ultimately a political liability. While McDonald had quietly dropped the idea of a $20 million training center at Blue Ridge Community College, he continued to look for a site for a center. The announcement in April that he had found a new site in Saluda revived the controversy just two weeks before early voting started and fired up hundreds of motivated single-issue voters. Griffin shellacked McDonald in the two precincts closest to Saluda — winning 72 percent of the vote in Green River and 84 percent in Raven Rock, the would-be home of the proposed Macedonia Road firing range.
During a forum last month, McDonald defended the facility.
“We’re asking our men and women to do more and more and to be trained to a higher level of efficiency,” he said. “I think everybody understands law enforcement needs to have the ability to train realistically in rapidly evolving situations so they can practice critical decision skills and combat tactics.”
Griffin argued against the training center but for a broader outdoor training facility that would cost less and involve all first-responders.
“If we do this right, we can create a village that becomes a total emergency services training area. … If we decide to go with an outdoor training center, we’ve got to have transparent studies that show the effect on the quality of life of everyone that may be around or affected by that. There are a lot of options," he said. "I think we really need to slow down and discuss and choose what’s right.”

McCall edges Ward


The Republican primary for the District 4 Board of Commissioners seat was a contest between two county natives, both graduates of East Henderson High School — Ward in 1970 and McCall in 1974 — both with grandfathers who served on the Board of Commissioners.
McCall pulled away for the win, becoming the first woman to serve since 2002.
“I think most of the people probably thought I was the incumbent,” Ward said. “I knew Lowell was gonna win. I think the people just wanted somebody new on all counts, in the sheriff’s race and the commissioners. I think the people wanted change. They’re tired of the same old politicians in office and I think the people spoke and I respect their opinion.
“Rebecca’s going to do a good job,” he added. “I've got total confidence.”

Ward was an early vocal opponent of the law enforcement training center and also came out against the Balfour Parkway. McCall opposed the parkway. She said she favored a training center but not one at the Saluda site.

“They need to have scenario training … to be able to mimic what is going to happen in schools or any area they have to be able to set up these scenarios. … There is money to pay for that,” she said.
Ward called for shifting that investment to schools.
“With $6 million, if I choose between a law enforcement center that’s a year off and the immediate need that’s in the schools, I will pick the school and teachers,” he said.
Both opposed arming schoolteachers.
“It’s a whole different thing being armed and pulling the trigger and killing somebody,” Ward said. “If you hesitate for a second, you’re dead and might be somebody dead besides you.”
“My daughter-in-law is a teacher,” McCall said. “She teaches fifth grade. She’s very strong-willed. I asked her that question and she said she would not want to carry a gun. She has enough to do as a teacher to deal with that.”

Newman turns back challenger

District Attorney Greg Newman easily defeated Mary Ann Hollocker.

Hollocker, a magistrate, said on the campaign trail that law enforcement officers had asked her to run.
“This is not a personal attack against Mr. Newman. I just think with my skill set I can do a better job,” she said.
A county magistrate for the past four years, she said she hears “first-hand how upset they are about how their cases are being handled. And I think with the skill set I have and experience I can fix those problems.”
Newman scoffed at that. Gathered at the Elizabeth Leigh Inn on Fifth Avenue West Tuesday night, Newman said he’d never heard law officers express any concerns about his office.
“She claimed law enforcement was supporting her and were afraid to come forward,” he said. “The ones that I know aren’t afraid. If there was a problem they would have told me.”
“I think merit matters,” he said of his decisive win. “I think results matter.”

Sheley takes Democratic nomination

In a Democratic primary for the District 1 seat held by Michael Edney, Pat Sheley defeated Michelle Antalec with 70 percent of the vote.

Sheley had become active in the contentious issues that drew voters' interest down the stretch, coming out against the Saluda firing range and against the Balfour Parkway.