Wilson sheriff employee says he'll seek post
Posted May 12, 2010 3:37 p.m. EDT
Updated May 12, 2010 6:58 p.m. EDT
Wilson, N.C. — Wilson County Sheriff Wayne Gay's right-hand man is throwing his name in the ring for the office after Gay lost his primary bid to keep the seat.
Maj. John Farmer announced Wednesday his plans to run as an unaffiliated candidate against Democrat Calvin Woodard in November's general election.
Woodard, an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation and a former Wilson County deputy, defeated Gay in the May 4 election by a 62-38 percent margin, putting an end to Gay's 28 years as sheriff.
Because no Republicans filed for the sheriff's race, the Democratic Primary was the de facto election for the post, meaning Woodard would win the race if he ran unopposed.
Four percent of Wilson County voters – 2,186 people – must sign a petition for Farmer to have his name placed on the ballot.
Farmer, who's retiring June 1, said Wednesday he has considered running for sheriff in the past but never wanted to run against Gay. He decided to put off his retirement after Gay lost and community members urged him to run.
"I've been overwhelmed with phone calls and people coming to me, wanting another name on the ballot in November, wanting a choice," Farmer said. "It's been my life for 30 years, and yes, I do not want to walk away from it.
"The 12 years of experience that I have in administration of managing the $11 million budget, the 164 employees, I feel like I am more qualified then my opponent," he added.
Woodard said Wednesday that he still considers himself to be the most qualified candidate and that Farmer's decision to run means voting Gay back into office.
Last week, Gay told supporters he would work to help another candidate defeat Woodard, but he later backed away from that pledge, saying he wouldn't be a part of any such effort.
"The people see what's going on," Woodard said. "(Gay's) setting up a foundation for Johnny Farmer to run, so that, basically, he can get his office back."
Farmer said he has his own vision for the sheriff's office.
"We don't need to revamp everything, but there are some things we can fine-tune that will make this sheriff's office more efficient," he said.
The sheriff's election in Wilson County has been a controversial one. Gay initially blamed race for his defeat, saying the black community didn't vote on qualifications but took advantage of an opportunity to elect a black sheriff.
Farmer said he plans to keep the campaign focused on the office of sheriff.
"I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that this is about the candidates," he said.