The Stokes County Board of Elections cleared Democrat Sheriff Tony Blalock Monday of allegations that he and some of his deputies scared residents into voting for Blalock or filled out absentee ballots for voters during Blalock's failed re-election bid.
The three-member board dismissed the charges after the county Republican Party chairman testified Nov. 14 that she had no firsthand knowledge of intimidation. No witnesses testified that they had been threatened by sheriff's deputies.The county Democratic Party chairman repeated his earlier comments that the Republican Party was ``running scared' when it filed its accusations against the 16-year incumbent sheriff six days before the Nov. 6 election.
``Absolutely it affected the campaign,' Democratic Party Chairman John Burwell said Monday. ``It hurt all Democrats running in the county.'
Blalock was defeated by Republican candidate Mike Joyce by nearly 1,000 votes. Blalock received 6,783 votes, about 47 percent, while Joyce got 7,761 votes, about 53 percent.
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The race drew a large turnout, about 67 percent of the county's registered voters, but didn't follow party lines. About 53 percent of the county's registered voters are Democrat, and about 42 percent are Republican.
Carol Bailey, Republican Party chairman, stood by her charges and said people who called her with complaints didn't want to get involved by testifying at the hearing.
``I had at least 50 people telephone and say that deputies came by and said they (the deputies) would lose their jobs if they (the residents) didn't vote for Blalock,' Bailey said Monday.
``I had at least 50 other people who called and said their neighbors were approached, although they themselves weren't,' Bailey said. ``But when they were called to testify they said, 'Oh no, we don't want to get involved.' That's the way it goes.'
Blalock, who steps down as sheriff Dec. 3, declined to comment about the charges and the board's findings, except to say, ``When baldfaced lies make headlines, it certainly don't help.'
Burwell said the Republican Party's complaints were timed to do the most damage to Blalock.
Bailey denied the charge and said the alleged violations occurred just before the election.
``That's just the way the timing had to be,' Bailey said. ``It wasn't orchestrated for anyone's benefit or anything else.
``It could have swayed people either way. I would have hoped it would have worked in our favor.'