SLED Probes Vote-Buying Allegations

Sheriff’s Runoff Under Scrutiny

WINNSBORO – The state’s highest law enforcement agency has launched a preliminary probe into allegations of improprieties in the Oct. 14 Democratic primary runoff for the special election of a new Fairfield County Sheriff, a spokesperson for the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) confirmed Tuesday.

Debbie Stidham, Director of Fairfield County Voter Registration and Elections, said she received complaints from two independent sources following the Oct. 14 runoff, which Richland County Sheriff’s deputy Will Montgomery won with 2,787 votes over Fairfield County Chief Deputy Keith Lewis’s 2,168 votes. The complaints, she said, involved money allegedly changing hands in exchange for votes. Stidham said she forwarded those complaints to Dunstan Padgett, Fairfield County’s interim Sheriff since the resignation of Herman Young last summer, and Padgett, according to protocol, notified SLED.

“We have received a complaint and we are reviewing it,” Thom Berry, a spokesperson for SLED, said Tuesday. “We will conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether or not a potentially criminal act took place and, if so, that will trigger a full investigation.”

Stidham said her office was contacted by a SLED agent last week.

“We received reports of irregularities – bribes – from two different sources,” Stidham said. “We thought it was best to be proactive about it.”

Who was allegedly paying who to vote for which candidate, however, was not revealed at press time.

Montgomery and Lewis were the last two Democratic candidates standing after the Sept. 30 primary that also included Ricky Gibson, John Seibles and Odell Glenn. An additional 177 voters cast their ballots in the Oct. 14 runoff than did in the Sept. 30 primary.

No Republicans declared for the office; and unless the SLED investigation drastically alters the landscape, Montgomery will be the only name on the Nov. 18 special election ballot. Write-in candidates may make a run at the office, but not if they have already been rejected by voters in the primary.


  1. Mark Polk says

    Can we just do away with the special election (waste of money and resources) and just let Mr. Montgomery take office?

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