The marathon race to replace Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith will end Tuesday.
A runoff between Chris Green, a retired 20-year game warden, and Larry Smith, a retired Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, will end with one man poised to become the county's first new sheriff in 35 years.
The race is for the Republican nomination, but because there is no Democrat running, the winner will be sworn in as sheriff Jan. 1.
The redistricting battle extended the contest three months deeper into summer than typical. The race has been a heated contest since it began last year.
Even when the field featured four candidates, tension between Green and Smith was evident. The two candidates have traded public jabs during several debates.
Smith and Green received 44 percent and 37.6 percent of the vote, respectively, in the May 29 primary election. Fifty-percent of GOP votes plus one was needed to avoid the runoff.
The runoff has amplified tensions.
Green and Smith have raised unprecedented amounts of money for a local race. The two raised nearly $500,000 since last summer to run protracted campaigns. Green raised more than $268,000 while Smith received more than $210,000. Both totals include in-kind donations, such as auction items and campaign headquarter rent.
Green patrolled Smith County as its game warden for the past 16 years. Supporters believe his local history of getting to know landowners, patrolling the county and knowing “the patterns of the community,” make him the best candidate to make changes in the office. Green's business degree and experience as a building contractor before he entered law enforcement make him the most rounded candidate to run the office's $25 million budget, supporters say.
Smith's supporters say his 34 years law enforcement experience, which began in the Gregg County Sheriff's Office and ended at the ATFE, give him the experience, leadership skills and temperament to lead the office. Smith worked 11 years in the Gregg County Criminal Investigation Division (the last eight years as captain of that division), several years with the DEA, and 22 years with ATFE.
Despite contrary public statements by Green supporters, Smith has been involved in several local investigations, including the 2010 church arsons and high-profile capital murder cases in the county.
Green said Smith “embellished” his roles in those cases.
Smith said voters should look at each candidate's training, experience, achievements and consider their ability to lead the sheriff's office.
“Forget the fluff and look at the meat and potatoes,” Smith said.
Green said, via email, he is the only candidate with law enforcement and business experience and therefore the most qualified to lead the office.
“I am prepared to lead the office on day one in a way that will make Smith County taxpayers proud,” he said.
The candidates are in the midst of final campaign blitzs using newspapers, mass mailers, television, radio, and social media to reach potential voters.
Voters can view more information about the candidates on their websites www.larrysmithforsheriff.com and www.chrisgreenforsheriff.com.
OTHER COUNTY RACES
Precinct 3 voters will decide the race between incumbent Terry Phillips, who is seeking his second term, and challenger Ronnie Pilcher. Precinct 3 covers the northern half of Smith County, including Lindale, Winona, Hide-away-Lake and portions of Overton and Tyler.
Phillips, 55, said he has delivered on campaign promises that got him elected.
He said the county has made strides with regard to saving taxpayer money and that he has shown a willingness to make tough, unpopular decisions, including reducing employee benefits and positions, to keep the county on track.
Pilcher, 45, of Winona, said the commissioner has not fully represented his precinct or listened to precinct residents.
He said better budgeting and accountability for tax dollars will be his focus. He began routinely attending weekly court meetings almost two years ago and said running for office and becoming a voice for residents was the next step.
Both candidates said they had been going door-to-door and are continuing to work to get out the vote.
Pilcher and Phillips were among four candidates who ran for the Republican nomination. No Democrat ran. Phillips received 36 percent of the vote and Pilcher received 26 percent during the Republican primary.
Blackmon received the most votes, 30 percent, while McAuley finished second with 26 percent of the vote.
Blackmon, 44, began his decadelong law enforcement career in Precinct 3 under former Constable Danny Smith and wants to return to the office's helm. McCauley, 49, said he has been in law enforcement for 30 years, starting as a reserve police officer and working his way up to police chief. He has been Arp's chief for 25 years, he said.