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Piper wins Forsyth County's runoff election for sheriff - race not yet over



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Duane Piper (click for larger version)
August 27, 2012
EDITOR'S NOTE: After this story was written, Forsyth County Sheriff 's Lt. Col. David Townsend "D.T." Smith, 59, announced he would run as a write-in candidate. He was recently certified by the Forsyth County Board of Elections and will challenge Duane Piper in the Nov. 6 election.

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Duane Piper has won the runoff election, but the race for Forsyth County Sheriff's Office is not over.

Duane Piper narrowly beat Ted Paxton, who has served the county since 2000, winning reelections in 2004 and 2008.

Piper won during a bitterly contested runoff election Aug. 21 by merely 341 votes. Following the election, Piper went on a "well deserved vacation," said his campaign manager.

Piper, a former sheriff's office deputy, will oversee a $37.5 million budget and about 400 employees.

"A top priority will be moving manpower and reorganizing the sheriff's office in areas that will better serve the public and breaking up the old bureaucracy that exists," Piper said in a statement.

"I'm honored and very humbled by the confidence the citizens showed in me. Reducing the budget is also a top priority," Piper said. "I'll be working under the current budget my first year in office, but reducing the budget is very important to me."

Paxton supporters came out for him during the July 31 primary when he won 13,098 votes, but during the Aug. 21 runoff, he received a little over half of that support at 6,624.

Piper on the other hand, received 7,540 votes in the primary and 6,965 during the runoff, barely losing any of his supporters.

Paxton faced discontent by the Forsyth Tea Party over the passage of SPLOST VII in November that will fund the expansion of the current jail and a new courthouse.

Opponents were calling it another tax and did not like the jail's location.

Paxton also had to overcome the circulation of a 911 tape in March that may have undone many of the sheriff's supporters.

Paxton was the subject of a 911 call in January at a home in North Forsyth, where he was babysitting for his girlfriend and was found allegedly passed out drunk.

The audio recording was first obtained by political activist group About Forsyth and subsequently posted on YouTube.

Paxton contends that the situation was a private matter and that he had a medical issue involving his blood sugar which caused him to pass out. Paxton said the allegations were politically motivated.

CINDY MILLS ELECTED NEW COMMISSIONER

Cindy Mills was elected the new Forsyth County Commissioner for District 4. Mills will replace incumbent Patrick Bell in January.

Mills received 65 percent of the votes or 2,508 and Bell got 34 percent or 1,316 votes cast.

"I'll be attending the commission meetings and work sessions in order to listen and learn as much as possible before I take office," Mills said. "I'll attend the commissioners' training in Athens in December."

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