Two longtime law enforcement professionals will face off this summer for the chance to serve as Orange County’s next sheriff.
David Caldwell Jr. will ask for a runoff against Charles Blackwood. Blackwood won 4,788 votes in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, just 58 more than Caldwell’s 4,730 votes.
Six Democratic candidates were seeking to replace Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass, who is retiring after serving 32 years and eight consecutive terms. The other runners-up were Larry D. Faucette, 4,086 votes; Keith Webster, 1,130 votes; Andy Cagle, 716 votes; and Buddy Parker, 329 votes.
With no Republican candidates, the winner of the sheriff’s primary will be unopposed in November.
State law allows the second-place finisher to request a runoff if no one gets more than 40 percent of the votes. Local runoffs are usually held seven weeks after the primary or, in this case, June 24. However, local elections officials said it could be held July 15 when the state is planning a District 6 runoff between Republicans Phil Berger Jr. and Mark Walker for the U.S. House seat now held by Congressman Howard Coble.
Blackwood, 54, retired in 2012 as major of operations with the Orange County Sheriff's Office after 32 years. He has since served on the Orange County Jury Commission. Elections reports show Blackwood raised $34,732 – the most money for any candidate in this first three months of this year’s Orange County elections – and spent $22,886.
The biggest hurdle for his campaign will be keeping the momentum going and voters interested, Blackwood said. Elections reports show 19.31 percent of the county’s 105,934 registered voters cast a ballot in Tuesday’s primary.
“In any election, I think people should set aside their lives for a moment and go vote,” Blackwood said.
Orange County Board of Elections polling reports show he had strong support in the Caldwell, Dogwood Acres, Eno, Kings Mill and Orange Grove precincts. Blackwood lives in the Kings Mill precinct and near the Dogwood Acres precinct.
“It’s in the back of your mind that you always want to knock it out of the park and go home,” he said.
Caldwell, 61, has been an officer with the Carrboro Police Department, U.S. Army Military Police Corps and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, retiring after more than 22 years.
Caldwell said he expected a tough race, since voters had six choices, and asked his supporters to “please be prepared to vote again.”
His strongest showing Tuesday came from a large swath of Carrboro and the northern edges of Chapel Hill, including the Carrboro, Colonial Heights, Hogan Farms, Lions Club, North Carrboro, Patterson and Town Hall precincts. Caldwell lives in the Hogan Farms precinct.
Caldwell’s campaign raised $4,623 in the first three months of this year, including more than $3,500 that he and his wife contributed, elections office reports show. He spent $3,580, reports show.
Caldwell said many supporters contacted him about making a donation but said they didn’t have a lot of money or a job. He told them to keep the money, he said.
“Your vote means more than any amount of money you can give me,” Caldwell said.