As the South Carolina Lowcountry continues reeling from the seismic revelations and reverberations of the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga, multiple political races with potential linkages to this still-unfolding narrative are about to kick off.
And trust me, I will get to the Greg Alexander drama soon (Alexander is a close ally of the Murdaugh family who is currently campaigning for sheriff of Hampton County) … but today’s focus is the race for sheriff of Beaufort County, which is also located in the Murdaughs’ former (?) fiefdom, the fourteenth judicial circuit.
This sheriff’s race is about to get interesting … albeit a bit repetitive.
Two weeks before the (anticipated) opening of South Carolina’s candidate filing period, Beaufort County sheriff P.J. Tanner is set to announce his intention to seek re-election for a seventh term.
And it sure looks as though it’s going to be a rematch …
Sources have told this news outlet that fourteenth circuit investigator (and former Beaufort County sheriff’s captain) JoJo Woodward will once again challenge Tanner in this year’s “Republican” primary election for sheriff.
Woodward previously ran against Tanner in 2018, garnering 45.3 percent of the vote. However, the law enforcement officer won 14 of the 16 precincts in Bluffton – where both he and Tanner reside.
During the 2018 race, Woodward was seen by many as media-shy and gun-shy – seemingly afraid to publicly call out the longtime sheriff directly, relying on winks and nods instead.
“It’s Time For A Working Sheriff For Beaufort County,” his campaign slogan not-so-subtly stated.
Woodward’s 2018 platform was likewise mild – featuring calls to reduce opioid deaths in the county, improve communication with schools on safety issues, increase community policing, enhance traffic enforcement and reduce the office budget.
Woodward insisted the incumbent sheriff’s office was “top heavy.” He also pledged to lower the estimated $100,000 it reportedly costs to train, equip and pay each deputy.
In the event both candidates try and stick to the issues, that could prove difficult given the long shadow cast by the Murdaugh saga – which has yielded multiple state and federal investigations. All of these inquiries are tied to an alleged maze of criminality tied to Murdaugh, his family and the powerful law firm it founded in Hampton, S.C. over a century ago.
More recently, Woodward appeared in photos published by The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier – photos which were taken at the Moselle hunting property where disgraced Hampton County attorney Alex Murdaugh’s wife and son were murdered last spring.
Woodward was pictured with other members of solicitor Duffie Stone’s investigations unit and with John Marvin Murdaugh, Alex’s brother.
The investigators’ presence at the crime scene – and Stone’s alleged meddling in the case – were widely criticized as conflicts of interest which could have far-reaching ramifications on the murder investigations given the Murdaughs’ connections to (and influence over) the solicitor’s office.
“If he can explain why he’s running again,” Tanner said of Woodward, “then he should be prepared to debate this time, where he can explain to people why he was caught hanging out at the Murdaugh murder scene.”
Tanner, who became a deputy in 1981, was first elected sheriff in 1998 and is in his sixth term. Prior to 2018, he had gone sixteen years without a challenger.
Woodward got his start with the Hilton Head Fire Rescue in 1984 and first joined the Beaufort County sheriff’s office in 1986. He served with Hardeeville Police Department, where his brother is currently chief of police, in 1991 and returned to the sheriff’s office in 1992. From 2000-2001, Woodward worked at the DEA’s Beaufort office and returned to the sheriff’s office again in 2005.
He stayed there for thirteen years prior to resigning ahead of his 2018 campaign.
“This community needs a sheriff who is strong, consistent, ethical, honest and professional,” Tanner added. “JoJo is none of those things and is not what Beaufort County needs.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that “Battleship Chains” Norfolk Tides’ lid pictured above).
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