Berkeley sheriff candidates Lewis, Adams answer GOP kids’ questions at forum

Duane Lewis, Republican candidate in the runoff for sheriff, answers questions from the audience during a forum held by the Lowcountry Republican Kids Club Saturday in Hanahan.

With the field narrowed to just two GOP candidates, the Berkeley County sheriff’s forum on Saturday was different from the myriad events held in the last couple of months.

Santee Cooper Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Duane Lewis and North Charleston Police Lt. Brian Adams, who are in a runoff on May 5 for the Republican nomination for the position, were able to take more time answering questions Saturday at an event sponsored by the Lowcountry Republican Kids Club. The candidates said it was difficult to establish their positions during forums that involved all 14 candidates on last Tuesday’s primary ballot.

Saturday’s event, moderated by former Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash, also had a more relaxed atmosphere, with questions from the children taking priority. About 100 people attended the event, which was moved from Hanahan’s amphitheater into the city gym because of rainy weather.

The pre-screened questions included one from 8-year-old Mia Cook, who asked, “Why would you want to be sheriff?”

“I ask myself that a lot,” Lewis, 51, joked. “I come from a long family history of law enforcement. ... I think it’s one of the most important positions in county government because you have the ability to affect people’s lives. Personally, as a young man being around law enforcement all my life, it’s something that I’ve always thought about.”

Other questions included: Why are you a Republican? When did you last work a major investigation, like a murder or kidnapping? Have you ever disagreed with a superior’s decision?

Adams brought laughter and applause when he said his wife is his supervisor.

“Do we ever disagree with our supervisors? You’re darn right we do, but it’s how we handle it afterwards,” he said. “You put your facts on the table, if they change their mind, they change their mind. If they do not change their mind, at that time, you support them 100 percent.”

Adams and Lewis have touted the need for a fresh start for the department after 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.

Lewis said he did not run against DeWitt in 2014 because “It’s very difficult in a political world to unseat a 20-year incumbent with a whole lot of (campaign) money.”

Adams said he ran against him because “I knew there needed to be a change. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle from Day 1, but I think it’s important that we do what we believe and we fight for what we believe.”

The winner of the May 5 runoff will face Democrat Anthony Smalls, a deputy with the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, in the June 9 special election.

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