There may be just one name on the Nov. 6 ballot for Forsyth County sheriff, but the competition appears to be far from over.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Lt. Col. David Townsend “D.T.” Smith confirmed Thursday afternoon that he plans to enter the race as a write-in candidate against Republican Duane Piper. No Democrats or independent candidates are running.
“It was a lifelong dream and a goal after 35 years in law enforcement,” Smith said. “I have always set my sights on that goal and now is the opportunity for me to do that.
“I’ve been serving the people of Forsyth County since 1987 and it’s something I want to continue to do as sheriff.”
Smith, 59, has worked for the local sheriff’s office for 25 years after spending 10 years in law enforcement in Florida. He plans to take about a month and a half of his accumulated compensatory time to focus on the campaign.
Smith credited Sheriff Ted Paxton with bringing some great programs to the county during his nearly 12 years in office.
But after Piper defeated Paxton in the Aug. 21 Republican primary runoff, Smith said he wants to ensure those programs continue. Paxton’s third term ends Dec. 31.
“I had a verbal agreement with Ted Paxton after he brought me on,” Smith said. “It was an agreement between Ted and I that I wouldn’t run against him. And now that he has been defeated, then I have the opportunity to run.”
Smith campaigned unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2000 against Paxton and then incumbent Dennis “Denny” Hendrix.
Paxton, Smith said, “supports me in my endeavor.”
The sheriff could not immediately be reached for comment, nor could Piper, who retired last fall after 16 years with the law enforcement agency.
Piper received 6,965 votes, or about 51 percent of the total, to Paxton’s 6,624 votes, or 49 percent, in the runoff earlier this month.
Three weeks earlier, Piper forced the runoff by finishing second to Paxton in a three-man contest. He tallied 27 percent of the vote, while Paxton had 48 percent. Third candidate Lauren McDonald received 25 percent.
According to Smith, there is no animosity between him and Piper. In fact, the two men once served on the same SWAT team.
“I have already called Duane Piper,” Smith said. “I talked to him [Wednesday] on the phone and told him what my intentions were, so he is aware.
“I told him I was going to have a clean campaign and I hope he would do the same.”
Unlike running as an independent candidate, Smith doesn’t need any signatures, just a published letter of intent, according to Mandi Smith with Forsyth’s elections office.
He also needs to submit the same qualifying paperwork as Republican and Democratic candidates need to submit when they run for office.
Mandi Smith said the last time Forsyth had a write-in candidate was during the 2004 general election, when David T. Payne ran unsuccessfully for sheriff.
Since he began telling a few people about his plan, D.T. Smith said “the response has been astronomical.”
The downfall to running for office as a write-in candidate is he will have to rely on voters to remember and write him in. That’s in contrast to Piper, whose name will be printed on the ballot.
D.T. Smith said it’s not going to be easy, but he’s ready for the fight.
“We’re going to have to get the information out to the people, the voters,” he said. “And I’ll have just a little over two months to do that, so it’s going to be difficult.”
Staff writer Alyssa LaRenzie contributed to this report.