West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – The old children’s nursery rhyme, April Showers Bring May Flowers may be very close to true in South Carolina and especially in Lexington County. Each year azaleas and Bradford pears as well as many other beautiful plantings begin to push their way up through the soil or pop open their buds. They burst forth with beautiful flowers signaling the arrival of spring and the inevitable approach of summer. You really can’t miss them. It’s very pretty and to a true South Carolinian, brings some pleasure to the eye along with the blankets of heavy pollen mixed with the yellow dust from the pines that covers everything. That wreaks havoc with some people's sinuses.
As with the flowers, during a general election year, political signs pop up on nearly every street corner, in the yards of the faithful supporters, and just about everywhere else they can find to stick one up as spring arrives. The more contested the race, the more signs we see. They sprout up almost overnight.
One thing that seemed to sprout up everywhere recently were the sheriff's signs. Those signs touting the re-election campaign of Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon were almost everywhere by Monday. It seems as if one day they weren’t there, the next day they were. With great efficiency and a lot of hard work and volunteers, his team of helpers put up both large and small signs sometime over last weekend. Absent an official release saying, “Yes I would still like to be your sheriff,” it became quickly obvious when the county came to life to start a workweek and folks saw these in lots of places.
Sheriff Brian “Jay” Koon was first elevated to his position after a process that started with the suspension of Sheriff Jimmy Metts by then Governor Nikki Haley. The suspension was in response to Metts being indicted by federal prosecutors in the spring of 2014.
Governor Haley called on retired former Assistant Sheriff Lewis McArty to take the helm of the department during the interim period. Eventually,Metts retired and resigned before pleading guilty to federal charges. Meanwhile, back on Gibson Road, McArty borrowed Lexington Police Department’s Assistant Police Chief Jay Koon to help, “right the ship,” as they were fond of saying. Koon later won a one-year term in April of 2015 in a special election to finish out the last year of Metts' term if he hadn't been in court or prison. Then, Koon ran and won a full four-year term in 2016.
Koon’s wife Kim said in an interview with The Ledger in 2015 after she became the first lady of the department that her husband wasn’t comfortable with the political work associated with being in office. She described him as a big cop that could care less about the politics if he could just fight crime. Since that time, very little politics has shown itself around the sheriff’s department, at least not that the public would notice. Nothing is being implied here, it really hasn't happened as most observers would say. Really, it seems as if the man hates the process of running and being a politician. Koon has acted as a cop, just one that leads a 400 plus employee department with many interactive parts.
In his first run for the position in 2015, he won by a landslide, beating a young Richland County Deputy Justin Britt, Chief Tindall of the West Columbia Police Department, and a little-known instructor with the SC Criminal Justice Academy. Now, by the sudden spouting of political signs, it’s obviously time to do it all again.
At least one person has made it clear with interviews, a Facebook page, and of course those signs, that he plans to challenge Koon in the 2020 Republican Primary in June. That is former Lexington County Captain/Regional Commander David Arnold. (Read an article in The Ledger about Arnold here) As of yet, no one else has jumped in to get their feet wet.
Normally in Lexington County, the June Republican Primary is the race. The few Democrats that represent Lexington County are usually from areas that have many more Democrats. Their districts have small portions that overlap a minuscule part of Lexington County that crosses over into this mostly Republican stronghold. The one exception being Senator Nikki Setzler of West Columbia. His constituents absolutely love him no matter if there’s a D or R behind his name.
Koon has made no public mention of who his campaign manager will be or issued a formal release about the upcoming campaign. As we draw closer to the primary, one would expect he will ramp it up. Remember, as his wife said, he much prefers law enforcement over politics.
Expect more on this and other races in the future as the June primary draws near. Can we have that primary because of all the hoopla over the COVID-19 as the time draws near. Who really knows? We've found no documented cases where the elections have NOT been held as scheduled, even during the War Between the States. Although most believe some rules for social distancing will be in place, this primary will probably go off like business as usual.