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Ballot shapes up for Jackson sheriff’s race

Jackson County voters will finally be able to see the shape of the November ballot with the close of a second primary for the Jackson County Sheriff Republican candidate July 15. Following the first primary, in which only 42 votes separated first and last place, results show former Sylva police officer Curtis Lambert coming out on top, beating runner-up Jim Hodgins 130-107.

“I’m glad to have won yesterday,” Lambert said the day after polls closed. “Candidate Hodgins and Candidate [Mary] Rock, we all three agree there needs to be some real changes at the sheriff’s office. We all had some good ideas on how to go about that. That’s why we were all in the race to begin with. It’s nice to come out on top.”

In the general election Nov. 4, Lambert will face Chip Hall, who currently serves as chief deputy in the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. Hall came out ahead in a field of six Democratic candidates in May, earning 42 percent of the vote, 300 votes more than runner-up Steve Lillard. 

“I’m just glad that the second primary is over with and we can move on to November,” Hall said. 

Sheriff’s seats hopefuls had come out in droves this election cycle following the retirement of current sheriff Jimmy Ashe, who had caught some uncomfortable press in situations including using drug seizure funds to make donations to his children’s sports teams, riding around on a Harley Davidson motorcycle confiscated from a drug dealer and offending Latinos by setting up traffic stops that allegedly involved racial profiling.

Hodgins said his main beef with the second primary results stems from the fact that so few people showed up to cast a ballot. 

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“I’m sorta disappointed in no more people cared to get out and vote,” Hodgins said. “It’s pretty disappointing to me with 6,800 registered Republicans and just 200 go out and vote.”

That’s par for the course, though, said Jackson County Board of Elections Director Lisa Lovedahl-Lehman. Second primaries don’t typically draw a crowd, especially when there’s only one office for one party on the ballot. 

“Second primaries just are normally a smaller turnout,” she said. “That’s basically what we expected the turnout to be based on the one-stop and the by-mail afternoon ballot.”

Hodgins, though, said he’s disappointed with the outcome and doesn’t intend to vote for either Lambert or Hall in November. 

“No, I’m not voting for either one of them,” he said. 

With the names on the ballot now figured out, both Lambert and Hall are starting to think about the next phase of campaign season. Both have begun working toward November. 

“I’m just pleased that the election is over with, and again I think the citizens and the county spoke as to who they want on the Republican Party to run for this position,” said Ralph Slaughter, head of the Jackson County Republican Party. 

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