By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The only thing that’s been hotter than the race for the Lee County sheriff’s seat has been the summer sun.
As the Aug. 2 primaries quickly approach, four candidates – two Republicans and two Democrats – duke it out for the right to represent their party in the Nov. 8 general election.
Democrats Sam Piraino and Dovie Outlaw Williams have been a lot more cordial to one another than Republican candidates Jim Johnson, the incumbent, and challenger Marty Rock. Rock and Johnson’s political rhetoric has gotten testy at times, with Johnson defending against various allegations from Rock about his administration.
Johnson, who is looking for his third consecutive term, has welcomed Rock’s criticism of the way the department has run over the past seven years and has dished out some of his own when speaking about Rock’s lack of law enforcement experience.
Rock has pointed out lawsuits the sheriff’s department has accumulated over the past seven years as well as what he says is improper treatment of inmates in the Lee County jail. Johnson has fired back on several occasions, defending his record as sheriff by touting a conviction rate of more than 90 percent. The Republican race comes down to Johnson’s experience and track record as Lee County’s two-term sheriff and Rock’s call for change.
Johnson, a member of the Board of Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Training, also points out he is the only candidate in the race who is certified to be a law enforcement officer in Mississippi. A law enforcement certificate isn’t required to be sheriff here.
Even though Williams and Piraino seem to some to be almost secondary candidates overshadowed by the two Republicans, both feel they will be forces to be reckoned with come the November general election. Piraino wants to make Lee County more child friendly, as well as bring back the Lee County Drug Task Force. Williams wants to make sure the elderly in the community aren’t forgotten.
Both Democratic candidates say they aren’t interested in mudslinging with each other or the Republican candidates.