After months of canvassing, putting up signs and shaking hands, appointed incumbent Jeff Mann and former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones are headed to a runoff in a bid to become DeKalb County Sheriff. The runoff election is set for July 22.
Mann edged out Jones with 28,859 votes or 40.05 percent of the 72,062 total votes in the county. Jones received 16,098 votes or 22.34 percent of the total vote. The fiery Melvin Mitchell ran third in the eight-way race with 10,392 votes or 14.42 percent.
Mann was appointed in March to replace Thomas Brown who stepped down to run for Congress. Mann took an early lead over Jones, but never managed to capture the 50 percent plus-one required to avoid a runoff.
Mann’s supporters danced the night away on election night with a live DJ at Marlow’s Tavern in Tucker.
“It’s been a wonderful race so far, but we are still not done. We have had a phenomenal campaign and I expect a victory on the horizon,” said Mann, who served as DeKalb County’s Chief Deputy Sheriff for 10 years before the appointment. “I am encouraged by the numbers and I know the Lord’s will, will be done. We’re still looking good. We will continue to stay the course as my wonderful campaign team continues to work tirelessly. We have the faith that voters will make the best decision at the polls in July.”
Jones, considered the most well known candidate in the crowded sheriff race, said he plans to push forward. At a more laid back party for his campaign and supporters at Taco Mac in Decatur, Jones said it is critical that his team stay the course in hopes of a victory.
“We did it. I just want to say thank you DeKalb. But it’s not over yet,” said Jones. “We’re now in a runoff. We need each and every one of you and your friends to come back in July and help us win this thing.”
Political analyst Bill Crane said it will be interesting to see what the other former candidates will do and whom they will support in the runoff election.
“Now we have to see who the other candidates support or they may just be quiet and endorse neither Mann or Jones,” said Crane. “Jeff did better than I though he would do and keep in mind, Vernon has never won a runoff; but the largest advantage Vernon has is his name.”
Crane said that Jones ran a strong campaign.
“I didn’t understand why Vernon avoided all those forums, but the strategy worked,” said Crane. “I believe he got to the runoff because Vernon is very strong when it comes to shaking hands and kissing babies. I don’t know anyone better at working the room.”
DeKalb election chief Maxine Daniels said turnout was just under 20 percent of the county’s 390,000 active voters.
“Precincts in south DeKalb, Jones’ traditional stronghold, reported being busy when polls first opened and appeared to support his return to office,” said Daniels. “Precincts in central and north DeKalb appeared to be more steady throughout the day with northern precincts voting heavily in favor of Mann.”
Georgia Democrat consultant Cabral Franklin said Mann is looking good heading to the runoff.
“I think Mann's campaign strategy is solid. He appeared to focus on North and a little Central DeKalb during the general primary, which is voter rich this cycle due to the GOP Senate race,” said Franklin. “That focus and the incumbency set him up for a solid performance in the primary and lays the groundwork for a strong performance in a runoff that will likely be dominated by GOP voters.”
Franklin, who co-managed the day-to-day operations of the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Coordinated Campaign in 2010, said people in DeKalb would always know Vernon Jones when they see him on the ballot.
“Vernon has been off and on the ballot in DeKalb for many years and knows how to campaign. Also, I believe Vernon had the most visibility in South DeKalb of any of the candidates,” said Franklin. “If you look at any of Vernon’s campaigns he appears to have a base of support regardless of the opponent or office that he is seeking.”