Llano County Sheriff Bill Blackburn (left) and former challenger James Schilling. Courtesy photos
CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
LLANO — A candidate for sheriff has suspended his campaign in the upcoming May 24 runoff election, while the incumbent opponent says he will remain active in his bid to capture the Republican primary nomination.
Challenger James Schilling’s name will still appear on the ballot. However, on April 25, he confirmed he would not accept the nomination in the event he won the race against Llano County Sheriff Bill Blackburn.
“It’s a personal decision that each person has to make. James made a personal decision based on his family, his personal feelings, and I respect his decision,” Blackburn said. “I plan on still campaigning, talking to people, getting my signs back out, which I was planning to do in the first place, and continue operating the sheriff’s office.”
Schilling declined further comment other than the confirmation of his campaign suspension.
Llano County Elections Administrator Cindy Ware said Schilling provided her office with a “courtesy call” about his announcement, but the notice came after as many as 700 mail-in ballots were sent to voters.
The Texas Secretary of State’s Office sets the deadline to officially withdraw from the primary ballot.
“James Schilling has said he is verbally withdrawing from the election; however, the deadline to withdraw was March 16, so he will remain on the ballot. He can receive votes,” Ware said. “He’s on the mail ballot, and he’s also programmed for the election.
“That’s why the deadlines are set, so we have a timeframe that we can work within, so we can do our programming and get everything ready for the election,” she added.
Llano County Republican Chairman Jim Simmons said the challenger would decline the GOP nomination in the event he wins, but based on primary results, he believes an upset is unlikely.
“Bill Blackburn got 47 percent of the vote (during the March 1 primaries). There were five in that race,” Simmons said. “Anything beyond 47 percent was pretty watered down.”
Schilling was the next highest vote getter at 21 percent.
“Is it going to make a difference as far as who’s going to win that race? I don’t think so,” Simmons said. “I think Bill’s got a commanding lead based on what he did in the primary.”
Blackburn has served as sheriff for the past seven years. Before becoming sheriff, he was a retired Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden with 36 years’ experience.
Schilling has more than 22 years’ experience in law enforcement. He worked for the Llano Police Department for 21 years, 14 of them as chief of police.
Early voting for the runoff election is May 16-20. The election is May 24.