Bumbling TV lawman, animated characters get votes in Berkeley County sheriff election

Brian Adams

Republican also-rans, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and bumbling TV lawman Barney Fife received write-in votes in Tuesday’s special election for Berkeley County sheriff won by Republican Duane Lewis.

“I don’t understand that, but it’s the voter’s prerogative,” said county Elections Director Adam Hammons.

About a third of the 12,236 votes cast were write-ins. Lewis was the victor with 47 percent of the vote, while Democratic challenger Anthony Smalls finished third with 20 percent. Brian Adams, who lost the Republican runoff to Lewis, finished second with 28 percent as a write-in candidate.

Results are unofficial until certified by the county election commission on Friday.

“This is a really large number of write-ins,” Hammons said. “That definitely was a really solid write-in campaign.”

Former county lawmen Derrick Burbage and M.C. Bellew both launched write-in campaigns, as did supporters of Adams.

The three received the majority of the write-in votes, although votes also went to former candidates Chad Caldwell, John Waters and Rick Ollic.

Former Sheriff Wayne Dewitt, who stepped down in February following his Dec. 28 arrest on a drunken driving charge, also received a couple of votes, as did former Ridgeville Chief Ed Whitlock. U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham also received support for sheriff.

Adams collected 3,485 write-in votes, but voters spelled his name at least 75 different ways, including Brain Adams (77 votes), Adams (78 votes) and Brian Adam and Brianadams (each with nine votes). Bellew’s and Burbage’s names also were misspelled. Write-in votes are typed in using the voting booth’s keyboard.

If Adams had received enough write-in votes to contest the election, the county’s election commission would have considered each ballot to determine the voter’s intent based on state guidelines, Hammons said.

The commission did that with the paper write-in ballots to determine that Adams received 54 votes and Burbage had one. Bellew had no paper write-in votes.

“It’s unknown what the commission would have done with these different spellings,” Hammons said. “From everything we have done in the past, I think they would have been lenient if it was at all clear what the voter wanted, but we are not planning to jump through that hoop just for the sake of doing it.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.