CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The Democratic challenger in the primary for Hamilton County sheriff, Charmaine McGuffey, celebrated a resounding victory Wednesday over incumbent Sheriff Jim Neil. McGuffey won 70% of the vote, according to a report from the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
“The endorsement with the Democratic Party certainly did carry a lot of weight,” McGuffey said Wednesday. “The other thing that carried a lot of weight was my message.”
McGuffey says her message of reform and reducing mass incarceration clearly resonated with Democratic voters. A map from the Board of Elections shows Neil won several areas on the west side, but McGuffey won some areas on the west side along with the northern and eastern parts of Hamilton County and the city of Cincinnati.
"I was a little surprised. I knew we would win by a margin. I didn’t realize it would be that large,” said McGuffey.
McGuffey worked at the sheriff’s office for 33 years. She and Neil had known one another since college and were friends. He made her the first female to serve as a major in the history of the sheriff’s office. But the relationship soured after Neil removed McGuffey from her position as a major after an internal investigation found she berated employees and engaged in favoritism. She denies the claims and is suing the county and Neil.
Neil released a statement early Wednesday morning congratulating McGuffey:
"While the outcome tonight is disappointing, I am grateful for everyone who has supported me these last eight years. Congratulations to my opponent on her victory.
I will continue to put the citizens of Hamilton County first before politics. My base has always been the working class, blue-collar Democrats, moderate's who many in the party have forgotten. Our campaign valued integrity and not the type of politics you see in the city.
This is not a goodbye, but a temporary pause," Neil wrote.
McGuffey will face Republican Bruce Hoffbauer in the fall. Hoffbauer released a statement saying McGuffey’s priorities lie “in advancing a progressive political agenda.” McGuffey said she has broad support.
“What that statement from my opponent says to me is that he has a 1950s attitude -- the same attitude that I came up with as a deputy under different sheriffs. It’s the mass-incarceration attitude; it’s the 'Let’s lock ‘em up and walk away,'” McGuffey said.
Hoffbauer said the only thing about him that is a throwback to the 1950s is his short, cropped haircut.
“Republicans are very much for criminal justice reform, but we have to start somewhere,” Hoffbauer said. "There is a consequence for your behavior and you have to sometimes be arrested and sometimes you have to spend time in jail, but that doesn’t mean you throw away the key.”
Hoffbauer said he wants the sheriff’s office to work with social service agencies and the courts to help those who are serving time. He also believes the sheriff’s office has too many upper management positions, or “brass.”
“I’ve been contacted by many of the folks who work inside of the sheriff’s office giving me a lot of support and looking for, hopefully, this breath of fresh air to come to the sheriff’s office,” Hoffbauer said Wednesday.
Hoffbauer recently retired from the Cincinnati Police Department after nearly 35 years. He was a supervisor for 24 of those years. His father, Ray, was a colonel in the sheriff’s office for 54 years. His daughter is a police officer, his wife is a retired police officer and his son is a firefighter.
Hoffbauer and McGuffey worked together for about a year in the Hamilton County workhouse in the '80s. Hoffbauer then went to work at the Cincinnati Police Department. He said he and McGuffey were friends when they worked together and have crossed paths over the years.
Both are from the west side of Cincinnati and setting up a battle in the fall for that part of the county.
The coronavirus pandemic has limited the campaigning McGuffey and Hoffbauer can do, but they have been using social media to get the word out about their campaigns.