Two candidates who ran closely together in the Republican primary for Pike County sheriff will compete for their party’s nomination in Tuesday’s runoff, with the winner trying to unseat first-term Sheriff Kenny Cotton.

Career law enforcement officer and former Southwest Mississippi Narcotics Enforcement Unit commander Tim Vanderslice advanced to the runoff along with James Brumfield, a former sheriff’s deputy who retired as the local Coca-Cola vice president.  

From the outset, the GOP contest for sheriff was predicted to be close, and the primary ballot results held true. After counting on the night of the Aug. 6 primary, Brumfield led Vanderslice by just five votes, 2,029-2,024, with both candidates garnering 41 percent of the vote — not enough to avoid a runoff.

With the inclusion of affidavit ballots, Vanderslice ended up leading 2,271-2,245.

The primary ended the campaigns of two other candidates, McComb Deputy Police Chief Rodney Nordstrom and minister D.C. Corson.

Nordstrom received 938 votes and Corson finished the election with 49, according to official and certified results.

Brumfield is going into the runoff with a level of confidence bolstered by his strong performance in the primary, but he knows there’s a lot of work left to be done and one important goal for Tuesday — “getting our base back out to vote in this runoff,” he said.

Brumfield’s campaign centers on his widespread knowledge and experience in both law enforcement and business, characteristics he believes set him apart in the race.

“One of the biggest advantages is my education and professional experience — managing a huge company with a much larger budget and a broad financial outlook even compared to the sheriff’s office,” he said.

“I have the ability to manage a large number of employees and the ability to hire a strong group of professionals.”

Brumfield believes he is the candidate with the best shot of winning in November.

“I think that we need to elect a Republican candidate that can win in the general election. I’m that candidate,” he said.

Vanderslice was the party’s nominee four years ago in a much less competitive primary race and lost to Cotton by less than 3 percent of the vote.

This year, Vanderslice is determined to use his talents and experience to see a different outcome in the general election.

“We’re going to have to make sure to knock on doors and tell everyone to get out and exercise their right to vote,” he said.

When it comes down to the nuts and bolts, Vanderslice is confident in his experience and ability to serve as sheriff.

“I’ve worked in the county. I’ve put my heart, sweat and tears into the county,” he said. “We need to elect a sheriff who’s worked in the county, who’s been there — someone who can relate to those in leadership and move this county forward.”

Vanderslice will rely on his firsthand knowledge and experience in the field to bring him through the runoff.

“We need to elect a sheriff that has the experience and knowledge and who has dedicated their career in law enforcement,” he said.

Vanderslice emphasized the need for a more robust GED program within the jail.

“It’s the only way to stop the cycle,” he said. “That means more to me than putting people in prison for 20 years.”

With such a close primary race — and the need for voters to return to the polls — the candidates could be in for another close contest on Tuesday.

In the primary, fewer than 23% of the county’s 12,077 registered voters turned out to vote. Runoff contests, which are only open to voters who participated in a party’s primary or didn’t vote in the primary at all, generally see a lower turnout, although a hard-fought governor’s race and some unsettled supervisor seats may motivate voters Tuesday.

Constable’s race on Democratic ballot

The sheriff’s race isn’t the only county law enforcement position on Tuesday’s ballot. The race for Pike County central district constable will also be decided in the runoff, with two area law enforcement officers in competition to replace longtime constable Billy Young, who is retiring.

James L. Brown, 28, of McComb, is a police officer in Magnolia and a school resource officer at Eva Gordon Lower Elementary School.

“I’m running for constable to make a difference in my community, to help the citizens of my community and in Pike County,” he said.

Before working in Magnolia, Brown worked for the Pike and Walthall county sheriff’s departments. His experience and passion for his neighbors may be a deciding factor in the runoff, he said.

“Vote for me because I have a heart to help people, I’m a professional and I want to help people in my community,” he said.

Brown faces Pike County sheriff’s Lt. Mark Thompson, 40, of McComb. Thompson also serves as a patrol officer for Magnolia.

He said he will rely on his experience and familiarity with the county in his bid for constable.

“I thank God and each and every one of you that supported me,” Thompson said.

His experience and dedication to the people of Pike County are some of his strongest attributes, he said.

“Allow my honesty and integrity to speak for me by serving as your next constable,” he said. “My honesty, my integrity, my experience in law enforcement and my dedication to serving the citizens of Pike County make me the most qualified candidate.”

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