Jay Koon moved into position Tuesday for promotion from assistant town police chief in Lexington to the top lawman in Lexington County.
Koon combined support from political and law enforcement leaders to easily win the Republican primary contest for sheriff.
“It’s a big job, a big responsibility,” he said. “The public expressed confidence in my experience and leadership and I’m very humbled and excited.”
The victory sets the stage for Koon to become the first new sheriff elected in two generations in a steadily growing county that is a mix of suburbs, small towns and farms.
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With no one else running, winning the Republican match is tantamount to becoming the next sheriff serving through 2016.
Koon will be the only candidate appearing on another ballot April 21, facing certain victory unless an unexpected write-in challenger emerges and overcomes many hurdles.
He swept by three challengers with 58 percent of the vote in the GOP showdown, winning all but a handful of precincts, according to unofficial results.
Receiving more than half of ballots cast let Koon – whose 21 years as a police officer have been nearly all in his home town of Lexington – avoid a runoff.
He had too much muscle politically for his challengers – Richland county Deputy Justin Britt, criminal justice instructor Ed Felix and West Columbia Police Chief Dennis Tyndall.
Those backing Koon included Gov. Nikki Haley, State Sen. Katrina Shealy and interim Sheriff Lewis McCarty, a Haley appointee for whom Koon served as an aide last fall.
Their support helped generate contributions that enabled Koon to raise nearly $115,000 by mid-February, $40,000 more than his challengers combined.
But it also showed his family is seen as “stakeholders in this county” through his work in law enforcement, his wife Kim’s role as an teacher and their long-time involvement in youth sports and other civic groups, he said.
Koon echoes McCarty in promising to promote professional law enforcement while working to add more deputies on patrol for quicker response to calls for help and repairing the black eye left by the downfall of former Sheriff James Metts.
Koon, 42, is succeeding a local political legacy as sheriff.
He was an infant when Metts began a 42-year career in the post that ended in disgrace.
The race was created when Metts stepped down in mid-December shortly before pleading guilty to a federal misconduct charge related to interfering with the handling of two illegal immigrants at the jail he formerly oversaw.
Metts is awaiting sentencing.
The next sheriff will take office in late April, overseeing a staff of 500 deputies, jailers and assistants that handled nearly 86,100 calls for help during the year that ended June 30.
Nearly 26,000 – about 16 percent – of the county’s approximately 162,000 voters cast ballots Tuesday.
The total is higher than the 10 percent level that election officials forecast.