APRIL 13– Sheriff Sammy Davidson’s last-minute withdrawal from the race for Hardin County sheriff has triggered a little-known law called the “Anti-Skullduggery Act of 1991.”
The act is intended to address situations where popular incumbents file to run for office and then withdraw too late for anyone else to file for the same race, deterring competitors and paving the way for the incumbent’s preferred candidate. It requires the Administrator of Elections to re-open the qualifying deadline for that race for seven days.
Davidson, who could not be reached for comment despite repeated efforts over two days, withdrew from the Aug. 2 ballot at about 11:45 a.m. Thursday, just a quarter hour before the noon withdrawal deadline.
The race to be the county’s next sheriff as it stands now, is between Sgt. Johnny Alexander, a veteran Hardin County deputy sheriff, and T.J. Barker, a veteran investigator with the Savannah Police Department.
Because of the Anti-Skullduggery Act, however, qualified persons interested in running potentially have one more opportunity.
Hardin County Administrator of Elections Jeanette Cronise notified The Courier this morning that the qualifying deadline for candidates for sheriff, which was Thursday, April 5 at noon, has been extended to Thursday, April 19 at noon.
Accordingly, Wesley “Alex” Davis, a Savannah police officer, picked up a petition to enter the race for sheriff this afternoon.
The unusual situation has election law questions swirling in the state office of elections.
The challenge for Davis is that there are requirements for law enforcement experience and certification that must be validated in an affidavit by the state Peace Officer Standards Training Commission, better known as POST.
Cronise said according to the state elections office and POST, the deadline for having POST provide affidavits for candidates for sheriff is 14 days before the qualifying deadline.
For the original April 5 qualifying deadline for sheriff, candidates had to have their POST affidavits turned in by March 22. When Davidson withdrew from the race, bringing the Anti-Skullduggery Act into play and forcing a two week extension of the qualifying date to April 19, the POST affidavit deadline correspondingly moved forward two weeks to April 5.
Cronise advised Davis that since he hadn’t provided his POST affidavit by April 5, he likely wouldn’t be allowed on the ballot, even if he submitted his candidate petition by the April 19 extended deadline. Davis requested the petition anyway, possibly with the intention of seeking an additional extension of the POST affidavit rule beyond April 5, due to the unusual circumstances of this race.
Cronise says the issue of whether Davis could still be allowed on the ballot despite not meeting the POST affidavit deadline is a question for the state election office.
Regarding Davidson’s decision to withdraw, candidate T.J. Barker said, “It is with the greatest respect that I wish Sheriff Sammy Davidson farewell after serving Hardin County for over the last 25 years. During his law enforcement career he has gained the respect of many. I’m certain that his decision to withdraw from the 2018 campaign was not an easy choice.”
Alexander, the other current candidate for sheriff, could not be reached for comment.