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Clayton sheriff race presents challenge for voters

7:40 PM, Nov 2, 2012   |    comments
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JONESBORO, Ga. -- In terms of volunteer lung power, Garland Watkins owned the Clayton County sheriff's race Friday at the early voting site in downtown Jonesboro. 

Watkins volunteers waved placards and tried to speak with every voter approaching the old historic courthouse, where a line of voters snaked onto the front lawn.

Watkins is more than an underdog. As a write-in candidate, history suggests he has almost no chance of beating the only candidate on the ballot, former sheriff Victor Hill.

"It makes sense to re-elect Victor Hill," said Baniecea Ellerbe after voting Friday.

Hill has a loyal following in Clayton County, in spite of a multi-count felony indictment that would likely prevent him from taking office if he's re-elected. Hill says he's innocent.  Hill had zero volunteer presence outside the early voting site, yet plenty of support.

"I'm a Victor Hill die hard fan," said Baniecea Ellerbe after voting Friday.

"People know he don't play. He don't take no mess. So that's what I like about Victor Hill," Ellerbe said.

Clayton County is among the many metro Atlanta counties that had long lines of early voters. It's among the few with an active write-in campaign for a major county office.

"It's as easy as one two three," said election director Annie Bright. She says voters have had no trouble taking the extra step required to write in a candidate.

Voter Gail Hensarling agreed, after casting a write-in vote for Watkins. "(The screen) says 'write in.' You push it, and type in the name."

Outside the early voting site, we asked fifty one voters about the sheriff's race. The majority voted for Hill.  22 of the 51 said they successfully wrote in Watkins -- or nearly so.

"I did kind of forget his last name. I think I wrote in Wilkins. But I got his first name right," said voter Zipporah Cooper, who says she hopes those counting the votes will tabulate hers among those for Watkins.

It'll be another story to watch election night-- in a county that's had more than its share of election twists.

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