Sheriff hopefuls scramble for endorsements
[DeKalb County, GA]

Ben Smith
February 25, 2001 Sunday, Home Edition
Copyright 2001 The Atlanta Constitution
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
February 25, 2001 Sunday, Home Edition

(DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.) -- With 23 days left in a seven-week campaign, candidates for DeKalb County sheriff are scrambling for political endorsements they hope will boost their name recognition and chances of victory.

With little time to campaign, the candidates hope the endorsements will help mobilize voters.

Last week, former Atlanta homicide detective Geraldine Champion won the support of the siblings of slain sheriff-elect Derwin Brown, while Georgia Perimeter police Chief Juliet De La Cruz received endorsements from the Police Benevolent Association and Georgia Equality, a gay and lesbian political action group.

Meanwhile, interim DeKalb Sheriff Thomas Brown, who is not related to Derwin Brown, has collected endorsements from various high-profile local figures including former DeKalb County Chief Executive Officers Liane Levetan and Manuel Maloof, Fulton County Sheriff Jackie Barrett, District Attorney J. Tom Morgan, and Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Earl Paulk of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.

Thomas Brown has also been endorsed by the DeKalb Police Chiefs Association and the Organization of DeKalb Educators.

Other candidates in the race are former U.S. Labor Department investigator Le'Roy Battle, frequent candidate Joe Bembry, former reserve DeKalb deputy Harold Dennis and Jonesboro police Lt. Roosevelt Smith. Former candidate J.F. McNaughton has withdrawn from the election, but his name still will appear on the ballot.

The March 20 election was called after the slaying of Derwin Brown, who was gunned down in front of his home Dec. 15, two days before his inauguration as sheriff. Thomas Brown, who's on leave from his job as DeKalb County public safety director, was appointed to replace Derwin Brown until the special election could be held.

"You have to still consider Tom Brown as the front-runner at this point by virtue of the position he now holds and by virtue of the types of DeKalb County leaders who are endorsing him," said Beth Schapiro, a Democratic political consultant who's worked on campaigns in DeKalb County.

Schapiro said endorsements of Champion by Derwin Brown's sisters, Renee Brown and Wanda Marfuggi, and his brother, Ron Brown, might pick up votes for Champion.

But without the public support of Derwin Brown's widow, Phyllis, those endorsements "won't have the same impact."

Phyllis Brown has declined to endorse any candidate.

Champion, meanwhile, thanked Derwin Brown's siblings for "believing in her candidacy" and said she "hoped the will of the people will anoint the next sheriff of DeKalb."

While Juliet De La Cruz said she was disappointed not to receive an endorsement from members of Derwin Brown's family, she said she was pleased with the endorsements she has received.

"The organizations that have endorsed me make very educated decisions about the issues and the candidates," she said. "And I value that more than any one person stating their preference about any particular candidate."

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