Sheriff Jim Matthews has won the Republican primary for Kershaw County sheriff, defeating David Thomley for a second time.
Voter turnout was heavy at Kershaw County polls, driven in part by a rematch of the sheriff’s race that Matthews won four years ago. Among differences in the candidates’ campaigns in the 2014 primary race were the number of deputies that should be deployed and where they should be placed.
Shortly after 8 p.m., Thomley conceded defeat to Matthews, as the Kershaw County Board of Elections and Registration reported early returns showing Matthews had a commanding lead.
Matthews said he was surprised by the wide margin.
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“I thought it was going to be a strong victory, but not this strong,” Matthews said Tuesday night after Thomley’s announcement. “This shows that the people are happy and they at least want to keep me for four more years.”
Matthews said one of his top priorities is to become an accredited department. Matthews said the department already has started that process by increasing minority recruitment, implementing new evidence filing procedures along with new use-of-force policies that document instances of force used by officers. Matthews said the department should finish the accreditation process by the end of the summer.
Matthews said reducing response times and time on calls are priorities as well, citing insufficient manpower as the main problem.
“Right now we just answer calls. We don’t have the ability to patrol, which is what the people expect,” Matthews said. “I think they have seen an improvement from what they have had before, but we have got a long way to go.”
“We aren’t where we want us to be, but we are moving in the right direction.”
Thomley said Tuesday night the primary race was over before it even got started.
“It was a long year and I was surrounded by a group of people that worked their tails off,” Thomley said. “The voters have spoken and we respect their decision.”