CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Republican Jim Ruth was elected Bradley County's next sheriff Thursday.
Ruth and Democrat Steve Lawson waged an often heated campaign to fill the vacancy created after Tim Gobble entered the race for the 3rd Congressional District.
Lawson and Ruth are captains in the sheriff's office, each heading a division.
Ruth said he never doubted he would win.
"After (a) hard-fought campaign like this, people at the sheriff's office have been split," Ruth said. "There are hurts to heal. We have to get people focused again and not let a void be there."
Lawson could not be reached for comment.
Political identity became a focal point in the sheriff's race.
Ruth survived a five-candidate field of Republican candidates in the May primary to become the GOP nominee. He repeatedly emphasized that he was the Republican candidate and the conservative.
Lawson, the Democratic candidate, called himself a conservative and emphasized that partisan politics has no place in public safety and law enforcement.
In a county where early voting turnout in the party primaries was 9-to-1 Republican over Democrat, Lawson was endorsed by several leading local Republicans and supported by a group called Republicans for Lawson.
Republicans throughout Southeast Tennessee also said that strong interest in the GOP primary for governor and the 3rd Congressional District boosted party turnout in other races, too.
Elsewhere in Southeast Tennessee, most sheriffs seeking re-election were returned to office.
* In Bledsoe County, incumbent Republican Jimmy Morris beat former Democratic Bob Swafford, who was hoping for a comeback, by a 3-to-1 margin.
* In Rhea County, incumbent Democrat Mike Neal won a decisive victory over Republican Mike Sneed.
Neal was seeking re-election to his second full term.
Sneed is the son of former longtime Sheriff Leon Sneed.
Neal said when the vote was in that he was "glad the citizens of Rhea County were behind me and believed in me.
"I feel privileged in their confidence," he said.
Sneed could not be reached for comment.
* In Polk County, incumbent Democrat Bill Davis easily defeated Republican Robert Yates Jr., even though Republican turnout throughout the county was strong.
In nonpartisan Sequatchie County, incumbent Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock defeated challengers Thomas Mahoney and Randy Phillips in a three-way race.
Hitchcock, a former constable, first won the office in 2002.
* Marion County results were unavailable at press time because of technical difficulties, officials said.
Follow this link to our Tennessee Elections 2010 website