DECATUR — It's one of the most contested local races this year, and yet as early voting starts today for the March 20 primary, the three candidates for Macon County sheriff are keeping the rhetoric pretty close to the vest, but fundraising is doing some of the talking.
Democrats Antonio Brown and Jonathan Butts and Republican Jim Root, are all coworkers and lieutenants in the department. Brown and Butts will appear on the primary ballot with the winner to face Root in November. They are seeking to replace Sheriff Howard Buffett, who was appointed to the post when former Sheriff Thomas Schneider retired in September.
“There will be no mudslinging,” said Brown. “We're friends, we'll continue to be friends.”
Brown, Butts and Root have each spent more than 20 years with the sheriff’s office, and if anyone has a lead going into the Democratic primary in March, it’s Brown who has outraised his opponents by more than $10,000.
“I don't see myself as an underdog at all,” Butts said. “People say (Brown and I are) both nice guys. I appreciate that — just look at the resumés, and look at where we've been in the office."
Campaign records show all three are relying on local funding, with many donations below $1,000.
"I guess I wasn't paying much attention to it," said Brown, who raised $28,775 last year. "I guess I've just been very, very blessed to have great people in the community who believe in me and support me." Brown said the focus of his campaign is reaching out to different communities in Macon County.
Fundraising documents: Sheriff candidates during second quarter
Root acknowledged he’s fallen behind in fundraising compared to the Democrats, but he will not be facing an opponent in the March 20 primary.
“After seeing what my opponents are raising, I kind of do want to keep more an effort to raise funds,” Root said. “I've been with sheriff’s office for 21 years, but I've not been in the limelight of things. I've never been one to seek out the media attention.”
For that, Root may have more work to achieve the visibility of Brown and Butts, who both have not been strangers to public and media events over the years.
Brown said his style of leadership “has always been about being very inclusive with the community that I've been serving for over 20-something years, and I've been very active — served on five different boards and different committees.”
Butts touted his experience with many different aspects of the department, from public relations to detective work to budgeting.
“There's a lot of people that are elected because they're popular, or they're put in places in leadership because of who they know,” he said. “But get to know who has the qualifications, who has the education, who has the experience.”