Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill
Clayton County Chief Deputy Sheriff Garland Watkins
Indicted former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill in court with defense attorneys
JONESBORO, GA - Just when it looked like indicted former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill was a shoe-in to retake the office, a last minute challenger has surfaced.
"I just want to give people an option, you know, we don't have to go there," Gerald Watkins told 11Alive News on Thursday.
The chief deputy of the Clayton County Sheriff's Office has launched a write-in campaign to try and beat the man who beat his boss.
Hill upset current Sheriff Kem Kimbrough in an August Democratic Primary Runoff election, a political payback for Kimbrough ousting Hill in 2008.
Even though he faces no Republican opposition on the November ballot, Hill faces a criminal trial on 37 corruption charges a few weeks after the general election.
Watkins, who ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2008, said he's been bombarded by people urging him to try and keep Hill from retaking the office.
"That's a dark cloud over Clayton County and the Sheriff's Office itself," Watkins said.
He also still has the sting of being one of 27 Sheriff Department employees fired when Hill took over as Sheriff in 2005, while snipers stood watch from a rooftop.
Watkins and those other employees were re-instated after suing Hill in Federal Court, which cost Clayton County taxpayers millions.
Since Hill's is the only name that will appear on the November ballot, Watkins admits his biggest challenge will be to convince enough voters to remember his name for a write-in choice.
"I think my chances are absolutely great because I think the citizens of Clayton County are ready to move forward and this gives them an option," he added.
Victor Hill did not respond to 11Alive's request for his reaction to a new opponent.
One of his criminal defense attorneys spoke for him.
"As another member of (the) law enforcement community, he has respect for Garland and he, too, wishes him well," said Jonesboro attorney Steven Frey.
Even if Hill wins again in November, if he's convicted on the corruption charges the governor can replace him with a temporary sheriff until a special election is held.