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Counter Points is written by WVXU Senior Political Analyst Howard Wilkinson. In it, he shares insights on political news on the local, state and national level that impacts the 2020 election. Counter Points is delivered once a week on Wednesdays and will cease publication soon after the November election is decided.

Charmaine McGuffey Demolishes Jim Neil With 70% In Hamilton County Sheriff's Race

charmaine mcguffy
Courtesy of the candidate

Challenger Charmaine McGuffey has ousted Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil in a bitter, hard-fought primary.

And she did it in a way that had to be humiliating to a man who has won two consecutive terms as sheriff. McGuffey had 70% in the unofficial vote count.

For any politician, getting the boot from your own political party is no easy feat to accomplish.

You have to go way out of your way to anger your fellow partisans enough to convince them to yank your party endorsement and give it to your rival in a primary election.

Yet this is exactly what happened in January when the Hamilton County Democratic Party decided to endorse Charmaine McGuffey, who once ran the county jail, over the incumbent Jim Neil.

Back in 2012, Neil became the first Democrat elected sheriff in over 35 years when he whipped retiring sheriff Simon Leis' hand-picked successor, Sean Donovan. He was re-elected in 2016.

He's kept that office in Democratic hands for quite some time now, which pleases the party leadership.

On the other hand, he has done at least one inexplicable thing that, although it happened in 2016, still has the faithful of the Democratic Party riled.

He showed up at a Donald Trump rally in West Chester. In uniform.

Neil was front and center with his good friend, Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, a Republican through and through and a Trumpite of the first order, smiling and applauding as the Republican presidential candidate eviscerated Democrats and the media.

The news media from Cincinnati, of course, reported that Neil was there, who said he had been invited by his pal, Sheriff Jones.The next day, he held a mea maxima culpa outside the Hamilton County Justice Center, where he apologized, saying his appearance at the Trump rally was "selfish" on his part.

"I've been a police officer since 1981,'' Neil said that day. "I was elected as sheriff in 2012. I'm not comfortable in the skin of a politician. What you get with Jim Neil is what you get. I'm a public servant. Public safety is my priority."

If he thought that would put an end to it, he was seriously mistaken.

Add on to that the fact that, in 2017, he fired McGuffey after she refused a demotion from her job as head of the jail. He claimed she had created a "hostile work environment."

She not only filed a federal lawsuit against Neil claiming she was fired because she is openly gay, but she filed as a candidate to run in the March primary against him.

And, in January, the Democratic Party's nominating committee gave a report recommending McGuffey be endorsed rather than the incumbent Democrat - an extreme rarity in politics.

Committee co-chair Britt Born said that Neil's interview with the committee was "disappointing."

"He repeatedly praised Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones, a sheriff who consistently opposes everything we as Democrats believe in,'' Born said.

So McGuffey became the endorsed candidate of the Hamilton County Democratic Party. Longtime Cincinnati police lieutenant Bruce Hoffbauer will be the GOP candidate in the fall. Hoffbauer had no primary opponent.

Neil told the Democrats in January that if they did not support him, they would lose the sheriff's office because "law enforcement will not support McGuffey."

McGuffey said she is certain the law enforcement officers of the jail and the courthouse will be on her side.

Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.