Berkeley County voters Tuesday shrugged off write-in campaigns and a Democratic challenger to elect Duane Lewis as their top cop.
Lewis, a Republican, received 47 percent of the vote in unofficial results to Democrat Anthony Smalls’ 20 percent. The special election for sheriff was called after Wayne Dewitt stepped down in February following his Dec. 28 arrest for drunken driving.
Write-in candidates received a third of the votes cast. Information on who those votes were for was not available Tuesday, County Election Director Adam Hammons said.
“I’m happy that the voters came out for me, and trust me and believe in me,” said Lewis, 51, the chief deputy for Santee Cooper law enforcement. “We stayed on message and were not distracted and I think the people of Berkeley saw everything for what it was.”
In the days after the May 5 Republican runoff that saw Lewis defeat Brian Adams, questions arose about Lewis’ background and Adams’ supporters launched a write-in campaign on behalf of the North Charleston police lieutenant. Adams could not campaign as a write-in because he signed an oath not to do so when he ran as a Republican. Derrick Burbage and MC Bellew also ran write-in campaigns.
“We are a little bit disappointed in the results but we made a huge statement,” said Mike Penn, one of the organizers of a grass-roots group called Concerned Voters of Berkeley County that supported Adams. “Our organization is something that needs to be paid attention to on all levels of government in the local area. We are here to stay and we will keep pushing forward.”
Adams, 45, said he was humbled by the group’s efforts.
“I’m actually very blessed and honored,” he said. “I had so many supporters out there and they went out and made one heck of a statement. I don’t think it was all about me, either. They are looking for a change.”
A number of people said the voting machines beeped each time a keypad was struck, making it obvious when a vote was cast for a write-in. “That’s just the way the machines are set up,” Hammons said.
Smalls said he kept a low profile during the election by choice.
“Like most people, I’m just glad it’s over,” he said. “We didn’t get as many votes as we needed but I appreciate the ones that did come out and vote. I was hoping for the best, but it didn’t work out that way.”
He said he may run for the office again in the future.
About 12 percent of the county’s 106,000 active registered voters turned out for the election. The primary drew 13 percent of voters and just under 10 percent cast ballots in the runoff.
“The rain definitely discouraged some people,” said Hammons of the thunderstorms that rolled through the Lowcountry in the late afternoon.
There were no power outages reported at polls but some poll workers reported flooded streets nearby.
The election will be certified on Friday.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.