Orange County

Sheriff Charles Blackwood defeats Orange County rival Tony White for a second term

Tony White, at left, challenged Charles Blackwood for Orange County sheriff on May 8, 2018.
Tony White, at left, challenged Charles Blackwood for Orange County sheriff on May 8, 2018.

Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood coasted to a second term Tuesday against challenger Tony White in a race marked by claims of wasteful spending and illegal behavior.

Blackwood had 76.7 percent of the vote, with all of the county's precincts reporting. Since there are no Republicans running for the office, the Democratic primary will decide the county's next sheriff.

This election was an opportunity to tell the voters what the Sheriff's Office has been doing for four years, Blackwood said.

"It's a four-year job performance review, and the residents and the citizens of this county recognize that, and they checked us off, that they approve of what we do," he said. "I'm fine with what we've been doing, I'm excited about what we've been doing, and I think as far as the campaign went, we ran the campaign we started out to run and it worked exactly like it was supposed to, and I'm very proud."

White, a 48-year-old retired investigator with the Orange County Sheriff's Office, had raised issues throughout the campaign about the Sheriff's Office spending under Blackwood on motorcycles, new patrol vehicles, firearms and other supplies.

White said he was encouraged to run for sheriff last summer by a group of deputies who felt they were not being treated fairly. He campaigned on fiscal responsibility, diversity, and better community visibility and service.

Blackwood denied the spending claims, and county documents show many equipment upgrades during his tenure were made with drug forfeiture, credit for surplus equipment and other non-taxpayer monies. County records show the department's turnover is low.

Blackwood and Chief Deputy Jamison Sykes also addressed issues that White's campaign supporters had raised, including the dismissal of a nurse in 2014 over an improper jail relationship and accusations that Sykes recently was seen pulling up White's campaign signs.

Sykes was cleared of wrongdoing following a Sheriff's Office investigation in consultation with the State Bureau of Investigation.

"We took this serious. We weren't complacent. We weren't terribly worried, but we wanted to give it the attention it deserved," Blackwood said.

"Our goal was to run our race and not get caught up in the quagmire of rumors and untruths," he said. "One thing I learned a long time ago is if you're talking about yourself in an election, that's great. If you've got to talk about your opponent, then you haven't got anything to run on."

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The sheriff is a position created by the state and, among other duties, involves managing countywide patrols, calls for service, crimes and civil process papers; operating and maintaining the county jail; providing courthouse security; hiring deputies; and writing budgets for consideration by the county commissioners.

Blackwood, 57, has served 36 years with the Orange County Sheriff's Office. He was first elected sheriff in 2014 when former Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass retired.

Blackwood and White, who had Pendergrass' support, shared many goals for the department with his challenger, from continuing the fight against opioid abuse to providing a safe jail for inmates and deputies and increasing well-being checks for local seniors.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb