Sumter County will have a new coroner come January.
Robbie Baker, the 31-year veteran of local law enforcement, defeated two-term incumbent Harvin Bullock in Tuesday’s runoff for the Democratic nomination for Sumter County Coroner, defeating the incumbent in a spirited race by slightly less than 5 percentage points.
In doing so, without a Republic opponent in the November general election, Baker is all but assured to be elected and take office in January.
“I’m ecstatic and overwhelmed. A lot of people went out and worked their tails off and had their faith in me, said Baker. “I promise I won’t let them down.”
Baker’s victory came after he narrowly qualified for the runoff two weeks ago, finishing only 12 votes ahead of third-place finisher Isaac Johnson in the initial balloting. But unlike a previous bid for office, however, this time Baker was able to come out victorious.
“I went down this track 12 years ago, and it didn’t work out for me. But I’ve learned a lot and matured,” Baker said, referring to his 2004 bid to become Sumter County Sheriff, when he ran as a Republican but ultimately lost to current sheriff, Anthony Dennis.
While celebrating his victory, Baker also tipped his cap to Bullock, whom Baker said “ran a spirited, tough campaign.”
Bullock himself was gracious in defeat. “I just want to congratulate Mr. Baker in his victory. I hope he serves the community well,” he said. “It appears the voters of the city of Sumter and Sumter County are ready for a change. I just want to thank everyone that voted for me and supported me. Although I didn’t win this election, I won with friends.”
While the Sumter County Coroner’s race was the closest race of the evening, it wasn’t the only one that had to wait until most of the votes were counted to determine the winner.
In the Sumter County Council District 1 race, Chris Sumpter earned the Democratic nomination by defeating Caleb Mack Kershaw Jr., receiving slightly less than 59 percent of the vote.
Like Baker, he does not face Republican opposition in the November general election, meaning the 24-year-old nominee is well on his way to becoming one of the youngest county council members in Sumter County history.
“Thank you to so many of the voters of district one for coming out to vote in a runoff, in a time when people have to take more time to go out and vote,” Sumpter said, adding that he plans to immediately start working on constituent services and scheduling town hall meetings. “Starting tomorrow, we’re back on it, visiting folks,” Sumpter said.
In the other race affecting a portion of Sumter County voters, Will Wheeler easily defeated Tom Drayton for the Democratic nomination for the State House District 50 seat, currently held by long-time incumbent Grady Brown, who is retiring.
In the district that represents all of Lee County, as well as portions of Sumter and Kershaw Counties, Wheeler received nearly 74 percent of the vote. Like the other two races in Sumter County, Wheeler does not face major party opposition in November.