Sheriff’s Race

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 5, 2011

Panola Sheriff Otis Griffin (left) and challenger Jimmy McCloud share space in front of Circuit Clerk Joe Reid’s copy machine Tuesday night to read copies of election returns. Griffin defeated McCloud in the Democratic Primary. The Panolian photo by Billy Davis

McCloud tells sheriff will back Darby in Nov.

By Billy Davis

Second-place sheriff’s candidate Jimmy McCloud said this week he is supporting retired state trooper Dennis Darby in his bid for Panola sheriff.

McCloud finished 1,102 votes behind Sheriff Otis Griffin in the Democratic Primary, where the incumbent won 5,400-4,298.

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 Griffin will face Darby, an independent candidate, in the November 8 General Election. That election amounts to a rematch from November 2010, when Griffin defeated Darby by 514 votes in a special election to complete the four-year term of late sheriff Hugh “Shot” Bright.

Griffin had been named interim sheriff after Bright’s death, then had to fend off a challenge to keep the seat. He is now seeking his first full term as Panola sheriff.

Throwing support behind a second candidate is normal in elections, though it’s often done in backdoor deals that are never made public. But McCloud made it public Thursday morning, when he placed a Darby political sign in his front yard in Batesville.

McCloud had also informed Griffin Tuesday night that he was supporting Darby.

A reporter was present in the circuit clerk’s office when McCloud pulled the sheriff aside after final election returns were announced. Griffin asked for McCloud’s support but McCloud told the sheriff that Darby had helped him in his bid for sheriff and he was returning the favor.  

“I just wanted to tell you that face to face,” McCloud told Griffin. The one-minute conversation ended cordially with a hug and handshake.

McCloud said he believes Darby can “mend strained relationships” among law enforcement agencies in Panola County.  

McCloud is a captain for the Batesville Police Department, where relations with the Panola County Sheriff’s Department have occasionally been strained.

“I feel like I could have mended those relationships. I think Dennis could do the same,” McCloud told The Panolian.

Panola County has 24 precincts and election returns from the Democratic Primary showed Griffin won 11 precincts while McCloud carried the remaining 13.

Griffin pulled in his largest votes at the Patton Lane Community Center, where he won 643 of 711 votes cast. He also crossed the 600 mark at Courtland, where he won 631.

McCloud did best at East Batesville, the Batesville courthouse, where he garnered 466 votes of 621 votes cast.  

Election returns showed 9,698 votes were cast in the sheriff’s race, a turnout of 37 percent of registered Panola voters.

In the 2010 sheriff’s race, 12,919 votes were cast in the runoff, The Panolian reported at the time.