CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Charmaine McGuffey beat former her former boss, Sheriff Jim Neil with nearly 70 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary and will face Republican challenger Bruce Hoffbauer in the fall general election, according to unofficial results early Wednesday.
McGuffey won with 50,293 votes over 21,891 for Neil, who was first elected in 2012.
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McGuffey was the first female commander at the sheriff’s office before she claimed she lost her job in 2017 because she is a woman and a lesbian.
She quit after she was demoted to a lower-paying civilian job when an internal investigation conducted by the sheriff’s office determined she created a hostile work environment for officers, who she said complained out of resentment because she was a high-ranking woman and she tried to investigate use of force cases.
She then sued the sheriff’s office in federal court, saying she was targeted because she wanted to know every single use of force case that occurred, why and how they were resolved.
That suit is pending.
In a rare move, the Hamilton County Democratic Party earlier this year endorsed challenger McGuffey instead of the incumbent candidate.
Neil is a second-generation law enforcement officer who has been with the sheriff’s office more than 30 years.
“First and foremost, I want to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who has encouraged, volunteered, and supported my campaign for Sheriff of Hamilton County,” McGuffey said in a prepared statement early Wednesday.
"I also want to thank the Hamilton County Democratic Party and its members, elected officials, individuals, and groups that endorsed me. I am very proud of our team and the work that has been accomplished over this past year.
“Together, we brought forward the critical message that the time for criminal justice reform in Hamilton County is now,” she said. "Tonight, I am gratified by the overwhelming response from Democratic voters that indicate they want the same criminal justice reform. Thank you for stepping forward to vote in this important primary election.
“Tonight’s victory is a victory for all of us. I could not have achieved this without each and every person who supported me and who cast their vote for me,” she said. “I look forward to being elected the next Sheriff of Hamilton County and am eager and ready to focus our attention on the November general election.”
In a statement of his own, Neil congratulated McGuffey and thanked his supporters.
“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,” he said.
“I will continue to put the citizens of Hamilton County first before politics. My base has always been the working class, blue-collar Democrats, moderates who many in the party have forgotten. Our campaign valued integrity and not the type of politics you see in the city.”
“This,” Neil said, “is not a goodbye, but a temporary pause.”
Hoffbauer, a veteran Cincinnati police lieutenant, also issued a statement Wednesday:
“I first want to thank Sheriff Jim Neil for his years of service to Hamilton County. While we haven’t always agreed, I know he served our community with passion and dedication," he said.
“The differences between Charmaine McGuffey and myself could not be more stark. The role of the Sheriff is to enforce the law and to establish unity amongst our law enforcement community. While I will focus on using my decades of experience to achieve this, McGuffey has made it clear that her priorities lie in advocating for a progressive political agenda.
"The Sheriff’s office isn’t a political office and we should not allow it to become one during this election. I look forward to having a robust conversation about my ideas for how the Sheriff’s office can better manage taxpayer dollars while also keeping Hamilton County residents safe.I am the only person in this race with the experience, the vision, and the focus to make the necessary improvements to the Sheriff’s office.”
The results from the primary election were delayed well past midnight in Hamilton County due to a large number of vote-by-mail ballots that came in Tuesday, according to its Board of Elections.
Mail-in ballots had to be postmarked by Monday, but voters could bring ballots to the BOE office in Norwood until 7:30 p.m.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, in-person voting was only available in Ohio Tuesday to people with disabilities who required in-person voting and those who do not have a home mailing address.