An unusual campaign endorsement in the Clayton County sheriff’s race has sparked a range of reactions.
Gwenevere McCord — the Jonesboro woman who lost a kidney, spleen and part of her large intestine after being accidentally shot by Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill —is backing the controversial lawman who is running for re-election.
In a robocall McCord described Hill as “the most effective sheriff this county has ever had.” The sheriff, who has had a political career marked by setbacks and comebacks, faces four opponents in the May 24 election.
McCord’s 12-second call drew responses from political observers and challengers.
“Sheriff Hill has never been short of surprising and deft political moves,” said Atlanta political analyst Bill Crane. “In this case , he has maintained a quiet and lower-profile since that incident. It’s pretty smart to deal with it upfront. I can think of no better voice than the potential victim. It also re-excavates the issue for political discussion among his opponents.
McCord was shot May 3 while Hill said he was demonstrating police maneuvers to her at a Lawrenceville-area model home where McCord worked as a real estate broker at the time. McCord and Hill were the only two people inside the home at the time of the shooting. McCord was shot in the abdomen and had numerous surgeries. Hill was charged with reckless conduct, a misdemeanor. He is awaiting trial.
One Hill challenger questioned the sheriff’s behavior during the incident.
“Why was a loaded gun out? Why would the sheriff be demonstrating any kind of weapons tactic at a location where the public is free to come and go?” said Satira Walker, who retired Thursday after more than 30 years in law enforcement - 25 years of which were with Clayton - to run for Clayton sheriff. “That puts the public at risk. That’s what any reasonable person would want to know.”
Former Clayton Public Schools Police Chief Clarence E. Cox III, another challenger, declined to discuss what he considered to be Hill’s “personal stuff.”
“I’m more concerned about what’s going on with the business of the sheriff’s office, ” Cox said.
Efforts to reach Hill and McCord were unsuccessful Monday but McCord’s father said Monday he “definitely” planned to vote for Hill.
“He’s done an excellent job in the county,” Ernest McCord said.
“It’s unusual that a sheriff would have shot someone other than carrying out his responsibility as sheriff,” said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia. “And it is unusual that the victim would turn around and say ‘although he shot me, he’s a great person to return to office’.
“Victor Hill’s had an interesting career,” Bullock added. “He was sheriff and was defeated and then he returned to office by defeating the person who defeated him. Usually when an incumbent is defeated it’s usually the end of his career but he made a comeback. He’s not one to follow the normal pattern of a public figure.”
Qualifying for the May 24 election ended last week. Some 40 people qualified to run for various offices in Clayton. Other candidates in the sheriff’s race are David Pigors, a 20-year law enforcement officer and Dwayne Fabian, a 30-year law enforcement officer.
The packed race may “suggest that a number of people view Sheriff Hill as vulnerable,” Bullock said.
“When you see an incumbent with such a large number of challengers that’s a warning sign that people believe they have a shot at this. Otherwise why waste your time or resources,” said Bullock. “It should be a very interesting race to watch.”