Lewis wins GOP runoff for Berkeley sheriff

Berkeley County Sheriff candidates Brian Adams (left) and Duane Lewis.

Gathering support from politicians and other candidates paid off for Duane Lewis on Tuesday as he won the Republican runoff for Berkeley County sheriff.

Lewis took 51.8 percent of the vote to Brian Adams’ 48.2 percent in unofficial results. The vote count was 5,726 to 5,328. The results will be certified Thursday.

“I truly believe the endorsements helped me in this race,” Lewis, 51, said. “I’m so grateful for all my friends and supporters and the former candidates that came forward to support me.”

The election was too close to call most of the night, with the candidates at times separated by as little as 10 votes.

In the April 21 primary, which included 14 candidates, Lewis took 13 percent of the vote to Adams’ 23.7 percent.

Six days later, nine of the 12 unsuccessful candidates endorsed Lewis. He also had the backing of former Attorney General Charlie Condon, State Sen. Larry Grooms, County Councilman Josh Whitley, and county school board member Mac McQuillin.

The day before the primary, Adams, 45, faced a challenge when candidate Frank Fuda filed a protest with the county Republican party because Adams failed to list his high school graduation date on candidate paperwork, as required by law. Adams has since provided copies of his high school diploma to the party. The party’s executive committee voted 23-10 to deny Fuda’s protest.

Also, last week former candidate Jerry Merrithew said Adams, North Charleston police lieutenant, offered to make him a captain in the department if he dropped out before the primary.

Lewis, the chief deputy for Santee Cooper law enforcement, said he focused on remaining positive throughout the campaign.

“We never got into anything negative from the beginning,” he said. “I think that helped us a lot. It’s been a positive message about building consensus. Now it’s time for everybody to come together and let’s move forward in a positive way.”

Lewis said he will start campaigning right away for the June 9 general election, in which he will face Democrat Anthony Smalls, a deputy with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s office.

Adams did not immediately return a phone call and text message seeking comment. Attempts to contact Smalls have been unsuccessful.

Less than 10 percent of the county’s 114,000 eligible voters turned out.

In the primary on April 21, about 13 percent voters cast ballots.

No problems were reported other than “poll workers and candidates still confused on who can stand where and what they can say,” Election Director Adam Hammons said. That was also an issue in the primary.

Former Sheriff Wayne DeWitt, who held the post for 20 years, stepped down in February in the wake of his Dec. 28 arrest for drunken driving. Adams challenged DeWitt in the 2014 election,

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