GOP candidate for Florence County Sheriff says he wasn’t properly invited to forum

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – There was controversy in the tightly contested race for Florence County Sheriff, as one candidate says he wasn’t properly invited to Thursday night’s forum hosted by the county’s Republican party.

Thursday night was supposed to be the first time Republicans in Florence County could hear from both of the party’s sheriff candidates, but they only heard from one. The other is accusing the Florence County Republican Party of intentionally choosing a night when he could not be there, but that candidate also says he didn’t want to be in it at all.

Former South Carolina Highway Patrol Lt. TJ Joye and Chief Deputy Glen Kirby are running in next month’s Republican primary for Florence County Sheriff. Joye is now the head of security, athletics director and head football coach at Carolina Academy in Lake City.

They’re looking to replace former Sheriff Kenney Boone, who was removed in February after pleading guilty to misconduct in office and embezzlement. Sheriff Billy Barnes, who took over after Boone’s removal, is not running.

Joye and Kirby were supposed to take part in a virtual forum at the county Republican headquarters, but Joye was not there. Joye says he told the organizers he didn’t want to be in any forum or debate when asked if he’d participate. You can watch the forum here.

Mike Page, who’s chair of the Florence County GOP, says he spoke to Joye twice in the last 10 days. Page says he didn’t know Joye would be out of town until Tuesday.

The party also says both candidates were notified of the event online, on the phone and by mail.

“Both have been fully invited to participate in tonight’s forum,” Page said during the forum.

Joye says his campaign is about accountability, integrity and leadership.

“This race for sheriff has been like “A Tale of Two Cities,” the best of times and the worst of times,” he said in a Facebook video he posted minutes before the forum. “The best included getting out, meeting so many of you before the coronavirus changed everything.”

Kirby did not address the scheduling issue at the forum, but said a top priority of his would be school safety.

“I want our schools to be the safest in South Carolina,” he said during the forum. “I have plans to make to make our schools safe. We have been training constantly in our schools since this COVID virus has shut the schools down.”

On the Democratic side, Jody Lynch and Darrin Yarborough are running for the nomination. Before the forum, Yarborough said he focus on integrity, credibility and transparency as sheriff. He also says he’d like deputies to wear body cameras, would focus on the administration and rebuild the sheriff’s office’s relationship with the community.

After the forum, Lynch said it was one-sided and that she wants the election process to be fair. She also says she looks forward to Florence County voters getting an equal chance to hear from each candidate.

South Carolina’s local election primaries like this one have not been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic and will be held on Tuesday, June 9.

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