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Smith leads tight Berkeley sheriff's race

May 10, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - In a tight race, W. Randy Smith was leading Preston Gooden for the Democratic nomination for Berkeley County sheriff in Tuesday's primary election.

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With 41 of 46 precincts reporting, Smith, who worked 12 years for the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, had 2,293 votes. Gooden, who was sheriff for two terms, had 2,040 votes.

The winner of the Democratic nomination will face incumbent Ronald E. Jones in the November general election. Jones, who ran unopposed in the primary, is completing his first four-year term.

As late results were being tabulated, Smith, 52, of Martinsburg, said the race was closer than he expected. "I was hoping I'd make a showing," he said.

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Berkeley County Circuit Clerk Virginia Sine said that absentee ballots that had arrived by Tuesday were counted. Any others that were postmarked by Tuesday will be counted, too, she said.

An official canvas of ballots will be conducted on Friday, Sine said.

Smith had not run for office before. He became a bail agent and private investigator when he left the sheriff's department just after Gooden took office for the first time.

Gooden, 60, of Falling Waters was sheriff from 1989 to 1996. State law barred him from seeking a third consecutive term.

He served with the West Virginia State Police for 20 years and with the Martinsburg Police Department for four years.

He now runs RBM Security and Satellite TV in Martinsburg.

Gooden had promised a return to aggressive law enforcement, which he said was common during his administration. He led a noteworthy raid in which 90 gambling machines were confiscated from 21 county establishments. He said he also worked to crack down on prostitution and West Virginia residents who hadn't registered their vehicles in the state.

Smith had said he would take a more low-key, but effective, approach. While an investigator with the sheriff's department, he worked several important cases involving drugs and murder, but they weren't heralded in the media, he said.

During the campaign, Gooden said drug activity was high in the community while Smith was a deputy and investigator. Smith countered with an ad concluding that Gooden's administration was inefficient and had a poor arrest rate.

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