CONYERS -- The campaign for Eric Levett, who won the Democratic primary for sheriff Tuesday night, is sending a message that his challenge to incumbent Sheriff Jeff Wigington is a "real race," not a plan to eliminate any other candidate from the general election.
Levett defeated fellow Democrat Donald Ferguson with 57 percent of the vote Tuesday and will face Wigington on Nov. 6. Levett is a deputy in the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office. This is his first campaign for elective office.
Ferguson, who lost to Wigington in the 2008 general election, claimed Thursday that he was defeated by crossover voting from the Republican Party.
A total of 7,493 votes were cast for the two Democratic candidates in the primary; 8,805 Republican votes were cast for Wigington. A total of 18,033 votes were cast in the primaries.
Ferguson, a retired captain from the Fulton County Sheriff's Department, stopped short of saying that crossover voting was orchestrated in an effort to eliminate him from the race.
"God knows what happened," he said. "And other than that, I believe this race did not have any ethical grounding and it did not have any integrity."
Early on in the race Levett had alluded to implications that his campaign was part of a strategy to defeat Ferguson. At a League of Women Voters forum in June, Levett said running for sheriff was his personal goal. "This is not something I was asked to do for anyone else," he said.
On Thursday, George Lopez, Levett's campaign chairman, spoke on behalf of Levett who was out of town.
"Donald Ferguson has mentioned this -- this is not a ploy," said Lopez. "Nobody has put Eric up to do this. The sheriff has not put him up to do this to help him in any way. This is a real race and we look forward to November."
Wigington echoed Lopez's statement.
"I think that, unfortunately, when someone loses they always want to blame somebody else," Wigington said, "but I've never taken any opponent for granted and I've never been a part of encouraging anyone to run against me, and to think that I would is ludicrous."
Wigington, who is seeking his fifth term, said he is now focusing on the November election.
"I look forward to a good campaign between now and November, and hopefully I'll be successful in November," he said. "I look forward to being the sheriff for Rockdale County for four more years."
Wigington also said he was pleased with the turnout Tuesday.
"It shows, not only in my race but in a lot of other races, that the community is ready for stable, ethical leadership," he said.
Lopez said the message of the Levett campaign going forward will be "forging a new sense of leadership and helping the citizens of Rockdale County."
Lopez also said Levett wanted to thank all those who came out to vote in Rockdale County, "whether they voted for him or not -- just for being out there and letting their voice be heard."