A NEWS ANALYSIS
A mathematician would tell Donna Tompkins that after the votes were counted on Nov. 8 she was on the verge of becoming the first female sheriff of Muscogee County.
A political scientist would study those same results and tell two-term incumbent John Darr that despite the numbers in November he may be able to hold on to his badge.
Early voting begins today in the runoff election and coming out of the November balloting Tompkins — a retired deputy sheriff — seemed to be in control. Carrying the Democratic Party flag, she garnered 46 percent of the votes, leaving her percentage points short of a victory.
Facing two regular opponents on the ballot and a write-in campaign launched by former deputy Pam Brown, Darr trailed Tompkins with 31 percent. Challenger Mark LaJoye finished with 20 percent. Brown was not a true factor in the outcome with only 3.4 percent of the vote.
Qualified voters can cast an early ballot in the runoff for sheriff of Muscogee County Monday through Friday (Nov. 28-Dec. 2). Voting is held at the Citizens Service Center, 3111 Citizens Way, adjacent to the Columbus Public Library on Macon Road. Polls are open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Voters are reminded to enter the building from the rear. The runoff race is Dec. 6.
But will Tompkins’ supporters return to the polls for the runoff?
Getting them back for a second time will be a major obstacle for Tompkins, a first-time candidate who must know by now that challengers who lead in crowded races such as that one usually don’t usually prevail in the end.
On the positive side, she led in 14 precincts, totaling more than 50 percent of the vote in 11 of them. Darr — running as an independent —finished on top in 11 boxes, but did not record a majority in any of them. His best showing was in Britt David where he collected 47.3 of the vote.
LaJoye, running as a Republican, led in Wynnbrook — a GOP stronghold.
Tompkins ran strongest on the south side of the county in historically African American areas. She had more than 54.6 percent of the vote in 11 precincts and more than 60 percent in nine of them. She was particularly successful in boxes where Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was most dominant.
Now Tompkins must find a way to get those important supporters back to the polls for a second time without the presence of a popular candidate like Clinton and without a black candidate on the Dec. 6th ballot.
The window of time for qualified voters to cast early ballots is small. The voting season only runs for five days this time and it falls in the middle of the holidays when people have things other than politics on their mind.
There has also been little time for either candidate to raise campaign money for the runoff. Tompkins previously had help in that area from supporters of Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. Whether the mayor and her people can repeat that success remains to be seen.
Darr’s camp has been using Tomlinson’s involvement in the race as a negative. He has used that in conversations with supporters of the Tax Freeze who overcame the mayor’s support in that runaway race.
There is only one race on the December ballot and the absence of an emotional issue such as the property tax on the ballot will have a dramatic impact on the size of the turnout. This means Tompkins and Darr must draw support from the highly organized Keep the Freeze group.
Even with Republican LaJoye on the ballot, Darr ran best in precincts that often support GOP candidates. Since the vote, LaJoye has thrown his support to Tompkins but the importance of endorsements is always debatable.
These factors seem to be in favor of the incumbent, giving Darr an opportunity to make up the 12 percentage points that separated him from Tompkins last month. His incumbency may also be in his favor though his past conflicts with the mayor and Columbus Council are sure to be spotlighted.
Numbers are deceiving. On the surface they favor Tompkins. But those same numbers offer renewed hope to Darr. But the most important numbers will be the ones that come on Dec. 6.
BY THE NUMBERS
Results from Nov. 8 voting for Muscogee Sheriff
Wynnton United Methodist Church, 2412 Wynnton Road.
Mark LaJoye (r) 327, 12.2 percent. Donna Tompkins (d) 1,505, 56.3 percent. John Darr (i) 716, 26.8 percent. Write-ins 127, 4.8 percent.
Carver-Mack, Columbus Public Library, 3000 Macon Road.
LaJoye 61, 2.9 percent; Tompkins 1,415, 67.1 percent; Darr 457, 21.7 percent; Write-ins 176, 8.4 percent.
St. John AME Church, 3980 Steam Mill Road.
LaJoye 113, 3.8 percent; Tompkins 1,941, 65.5 percent; Darr 645, 21.8 percent; Write-ins 266, 9 percent.
Britt David Baptist Church, 2801 Britt David Road.
LaJoye 356, 25 percent; Tompkins 369, 26 percent; Darr 674, 47.3 percent; Write-ins 25, 1.8 percent.
St. Peter United Methodist Church, 6507 Moon Road.
LaJoye 649, 33 percent; Tompkins 493, 24.7 percent; Darr 822, 41.2 percent; Write-ins 33, 1.7 percent.
Cornerstone Church of God, 7701 Lloyd Road.
LaJoye 1,094, 31.9 percent; Tompkins 983, 28.6 percent; Darr 1,321, 38.5 percent; Write-ins 35, 1 percent.
Columbus Technical College, 928 Manchester Expressway.
LaJoye 399, 22.2 percent; Tompkins 596, 33. percent; Darr 768, 42.7 percent; Write-ins 36, 2 percent.
St. Mark United Methodist Church, 6795 Whitesville Road.
LaJoye 1,450, 35.1 percent; Tompkins 955, 23.1 percent; Darr 1,685, 40.8 percent; Write-ins 42, 1 percent.
Wynnbrook Baptist Church, 500 River Knoll Way.
LaJoye 732, 37.8 percent; Tompkins 490, 25.3 percent; Darr 702, 36.3 percent; Write-ins 12, 0.62 percent.
Cusseta Road Church of Christ, 3013 Cusseta Road.
LaJoye 120, 4.8 percent; Tompkins 1,676, 68 percent; Darr 533, 21.5 percent; Write-ins 154, 6.2 percent.
National Infantry Museum, 1775 Legacy Way.
LaJoye 226, 10.9 percent; Tompkins 1,307, 63.1 percent; Darr 440, 21.3 percent; Write-ins 97, 4.7 percent.
Eddy Middle School, 2100 S. Lumpkin Road.
LaJoye 184, 101 percent; Tompkins 1,018, 60.8 percent; Darr 411, 24.5 percent; Write-ins 62, 3.7 percent.
Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, 4400 Old Cusseta Road.
LaJoye 111, 3.6 percent; Tompkins 2,026, 66.4 percent; Darr 671, 22 percent; Write-ins 243, 8 percent.
Faith Tabernacle Church, 1603 Floyd Road.
LaJoye 116, 5. percent; Tompkins 1,568, 67.8 percent; Darr 482, 20.9 percent; Write-ins 146, 6.3 percent.
Fort Middle School, 2900 Woodruff Farm Road.
LaJoye 318, 9.9 percent; Tompkins 1,985, 61.6 percent; Darr 790, 24.5 percent; Write-ins 131, 4.1 percent.
Rothschild Middle School, 1136 Hunt Ave.
LaJoye 270, 7.6 percent; Tompkins 2,281, 63.9 percent; Darr 781, 21.9 percent; Write-ins 238, 6.7 percent.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 4400 Reese Road.
LaJoye 788, 25.7 percent; Tompkins 1,095, 35.7 percent; Darr 1,136, 37. percent; Write-ins 49, 1.6 percent.
St. Paul United Methodist Church, 2101 Wildwood Ave., 2nd Congressional District.
LaJoye 653, 26.5 percent; Tompkins 736, 29.8 percent; Darr 1,050, 42.5 percent; Write-ins 29, 1.2 percent.
St. Paul United Methodist Church, 2101 Wildwood Ave., 3rd Congressional District.
LaJoye 226, 24.2 percent; Tompkins 354, 37.9 percent; Darr 338, 36.2 percent; Write-ins 17, 1.82 percent.
North Highland Assembly of God, 7300 Whittlesey Blvd.
LaJoye 1,000, 31.8 percent; Tompkins 823, 26.percent; Darr 1,273, 40.5 percent; Write-ins 46, 1.5 percent.
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 4980 Hancock Road.
LaJoye 1,444, 31.8 percent; Tompkins 1,480, 32.6 percent; Darr 1,542, 34 percent; Write-ins 74, 1.6 percent.
Salvation Army Church, 5201 Warm Springs Road.
LaJoye 472, 26.3 percent; Tompkins 664, 36.9 percent; Darr 634, 35.3 percent; Write-ins 28, 1.6 percent.
First African Baptist Church, 901 Fifth Ave.
LaJoye 124, 15.6 percent; Tompkins 461, 57.8 percent; Darr 195, 24.5 percent; Write-ins 17, 2.1 percent.
Epworth United Methodist Church, 2400 Devonshire Drive, 2nd Congressional District.
LaJoye 21, 18.8 percent; Tompkins 56, 5 percent; Darr 34, 30.4 percent; Write-ins 1, 1 percent.
Epworth United Methodist Church, 2400 Devonshire Drive, 3rd Congressional District.
LaJoye 489, 23.7 percent; Tompkins 581, 28.2 percent; Darr 962, 46.7 percent; Write-ins 28, 1.4 percent.
Marianna Gallops Center, 1212 15th St.
LaJoye 149, 12.7 percent; Tompkins 642, 54.6 percent; Darr 344, 29.3 percent; Write-ins 40, 3.4 percent.
Edgewood Baptist Church, 3564 Forrest Road.
LaJoye 320, 18.53 percent; Tompkins 764, 44.24 percent; Darr 590, 34.16 percent; Write-ins 53, 3.07 percent.
Psalmond Road Recreation Center, 6500 Psalmond Road.
LaJoye 1,370, 31.1 percent; Tompkins 1,422, 32.3 percent; Darr 1,521, 34.6 percent; Write-ins 89, 2. percent.