Recount Decides Sheriff's Race

A black candidate was declared the winner Friday after a recount in the racially charged campaign for sheriff in Florida's only majority black county.

Morris Young became Gadsden County's first black sheriff since Reconstruction.

Young, who had a 70-vote lead going into the machine recount, defeated Chief Deputy Ed Spooner by 115 votes. He said he would work to unite the racially divided county and convince supporters of Spooner, who is white, that he can do the job.

"The main thing is earning their respect," Young said. "I've got to show them Morris Young is capable."

Earlier Friday, county officials began the recount as the candidates and their lawyers watched. More than 20,600 votes were cast Tuesday.

While Young expressed confidence that the machine recount would ultimately make him the sheriff, a few others were wary in a county where black people, while in the majority, have long complained about the power structure and racism.

"As sheriff I want to change that," said Young, a school resource officer with the sheriff's department who was hired six years ago by his opponent. "I feel confident I won the race fair and square."

Election observers and representatives of civil rights groups watched the recount, trying to guard against a repeat of the distrust that developed here in 2000 when there were complaints of intimidation and other wrongdoing.

There were allegations of harassment in connection with this year's sheriff's race. Some white supporters of Young said they were hassled, including one white man whose truck was painted with racial epithets.

Spooner had said earlier he hoped the community would get behind the winner.

"If that's the result we're going to live with it we're going to make it a smooth transition and we're going to make it work as a whole community," Spooner said. "I would urge everyone to be a part of that. This animosity of hard or hurt feelings, settle down, folks."

Spooner disavowed any racial intimidation, saying "if that happened, it shouldn't have."

Young will replace Sheriff W.A. Woodham, who is retiring after more than 30 years in office.

Gadsden County is located northwest of Tallahassee on Florida's Panhandle.


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