Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott sported a Superman T-shirt after easily winning a sixth term as the county’s top lawman.
Lott, 62, surged past his Democratic Party challenger, ex-State Law Enforcement Division agent James Flowers on Tuesday. Lott outpaced Flowers 3-to-1, according to unofficial totals.
At his crowded victory party at Seawell’s, Lott said, “Look around this room. You see everything (races, genders and sexual orientation). That’s the support we got throughout this election.”
He said Flowers and his supporters sought to “burn down bridges we built over 20 years.” The votes indicate they failed. And Lott has said he’ll seek yet another term in 2020.
Efforts by The State newspaper to reach Flowers Tuesday night were unsuccessful. There is no Republican challenger in the fall.
Republicans crossing party lines appear to have been a significant factor in the campaign.
Some GOP stalwarts publicly called for their supporters to vote for Lott. House District 75 incumbent Kirkman Finlay issued a last-minute endorsement of Lott on Election Day.
“He has always made himself accessible to the people of Richland County, and I applaud his proven record of protecting law-abiding citizens,” Finlay wrote.
An anonymous flier circulated to Republicans just before the election calls on them to vote for the incumbent over Flowers, a 43-year-old African-American. The flier takes a shot at state Senate candidate Mia McLeod, saying she recruited Flowers for racial reasons.
McLeod, who also is black, called the flier “totally false,” “race-baiting” and “dirty politics.” She said she knows who authored it but would not say so publicly. She said she has not yet filed a formal complaint.
Former state Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson said he received a targeted mailing at his Columbia home even though he has never voted in a Democratic primary.
“I do know it’s happening,” Dawson said of an organized push from within the GOP. “I have talked to a fair amount of Republicans who are going to do that.”
Late last week, the Republican-leaning Citizens for Better Government released its first endorsement of a candidate for Lott.
Flowers, who has limited experience as a police administrator, sought to oust Lott from the office Lott has held for 20 years – and from the state’s largest sheriff’s department. Lott began his career at the department where he has now worked for 41 years.
By the numbers
Unofficial results in the Democratic primary election Tuesday for Richland County sheriff:
(151 of 154 precincts)
Leon Lott (incumbent): 26,962 or 75 percent
James Flowers: 8,920 or almost 25 percent