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Sat, Dec 20, 2014

Arnold easily wins re-election bid for sheriff

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Sheriff Robert Arnold steamrolled three opponents on the way to re-election Thursday, saying he appreciates the “confidence” voters placed in him to serve a second four-year term.

Arnold, a Republican, captured 16,333 votes, 51.9 percent, to 8,917 votes, 28.3 percent for TBI Agent Dale Armour, an Independent, 5,503 votes, 17.5 percent for former sheriff’s SRO Maj. Bill Kennedy, a Democrat, and 708 votes, 2.25 percent, for former sheriff’s Detective Jim Tramel, an independent.

Asked if he thought having three opponents watered down the vote and helped him win, Arnold said, “I want to think it was my hard work and effort and being a servant of the citizens of the county.”

Arnold had by far the biggest war chest of the sheriff’s candidates, raising nearly $49,000 this year and entering the race with more than $31,100 in the bank. He spend nearly $39,200 over three reporting cycles.

The sheriff said his second term will focus on upgrading office technology and continuing the battle against crime to keep neighborhoods safe as the county is expected to see explosive growth.

“People want to see more patrols,” he said. “It’s trying to do that and balance the budget at the same time. There’s going to have to be more (deputies).”

Rutherford County is planning to build a $70 million judicial center two blocks north of the Public Square, and that alone will require a doubling of security, Arnold said.

As the population grows, so will the need for more officers to handle warrants, transport and other duties, he said.

Armour said Friday morning he wasn’t happy with the election results but noted he made the best run he could with only six months of campaigning as a relatively unknown candidate. His campaign started in early February.

“We literally had to put together an operation,” he said, commending his volunteers and team for helping him garner 28 percent of the votes.

Asked if he thought the other two candidates hurt his chances, Armour said an argument could be made for that, but he still didn’t know if the numbers would have fallen his way.

“If you had two candidates going head to head, you could get into the specific issues at hand,” he said. Armour noted he is not a politician, but a “professional law enforcement officer” who wants the best for Rutherford County.

The primary motivation for Kennedy and Tramel in the race was to unseat Arnold. The sheriff fired Tramel in June 2013 after the former detective told him he was going to run for sheriff. Kennedy, who was Arnold’s supervisor in the SRO division and wanted to fire him in 2009, resigned from the sheriff’s office after Arnold won election in 2010 and was prepared to reassign him to a jailer’s position.

Tramel, who picked up minimal support, said he appreciated the backing of those who did vote for him.

“I did exactly what I planned on doing for the last three years,” Tramel said Friday morning. He did not think that his and Kennedy’s races detracted from Armour’s chance to win.

Kennedy thanks his family and supporters and called the campaign a “great life experience.”

“I wish the citizens of Rutherford County and the employees at the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office the very best,” he said.

Kennedy said he felt Armour’s campaign took votes from him, and pointed out that many people didn’t vote for him because he ran as a Democrat.

“The R’s have it,” he said, noting that Arnold received more than 50 percent of the vote anyway.

Meanwhile, two-term County Mayor Ernest Burgess won re-election easily against two Independent candidates, Teresa “Tess” St. Clair and Heather Ann Brown.

Burgess, a Republican, captured 20,493 votes, 69.3 percent, to 6,150, 20.8 percent, for Brown and 2,850, 9.65 percent for St. Clair.

“I just want to thank all of the voters and citizens of Rutherford County for their support for me. I will continue to do my very best to do the right things for the right reasons so we can continue to prosper and make Rutherford County even better,” Burgess said.

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