Blankenship wins sheriff’s race

By Bru Nimmons
Staff Reporter

COUNTY — Going to the polls to select just the third sheriff in the county in more than half a

Tommy Blankenship

century, Pickens County voters picked Tommy Blankenship to fill the office on Tuesday.

A current Pickens County Sheriff’s Office deputy, Blankenship will replace Sheriff Rick Clark after defeating PCSO Chief Deputy Chuck James in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff. Clark, who did not seek reelection and endorsed James in the race, has served as sheriff since taking office in 2013 after winning an election to succeed longtime Sheriff David Stone, who held the position for 44 years.

Blankenship, who had a 1,600-vote advantage over second-place James in the initial five-man primary election race on June 11, won by a similar vote count on Tuesday, taking 8,075 votes compared to James’ 6,518.

While the sheriff’s race was decided by a relatively wide margin, Pickens County Council chairman Chris Bowers found himself in a neck-and-neck battle to retain his seat in a runoff against local businessman Brandon Thomas that appears destined for a recount. After all the precincts had reported, Bowers ended the night with a 14-vote advantage over the challenger, 1,325 to 1,311. If any potential provisional/fail safe votes tallied before the race is certified Thursday push the margin between the two candidates above 1 percentage point, a recount will not be necessary, according to Pickens County elections director Amy Sams. Bowers’ lead is currently 0.54 percent of the vote.

In the only other primary contest on local voters’ ballots Tuesday, Mark Burns received Pickens County voters’ endorsement over Sheri Biggs in the race to replace District 3 U.S. House Rep. Jeff Duncan, taking 7,621 votes to Biggs’ 6,712. Districtwide, however, Biggs held a nearly 1,000-vote margin with about 90 percent of precincts reporting at press time Tuesday.