PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - Political fireworks are lighting the way in the race for the next Portsmouth sheriff.
WAVY.com reported recently Democratic incumbent Bill Watson paid inmates in his custody to work at his house and work at places State Code forbids. Watson's Republican challenger Ronnie Davis took offense to what Watson did.
"This is an utter contempt of the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia," Davis said. "He wants to do what he wants to do because he is the Sheriff."
But Bill Watson and Ronnie Davis have one thing in common -- they can't stand each other. At a debate last week, Davis said, "The sheriff's department is an embarrassment to the Portsmouth people." Watson called out Davis at the debate: "How do you retire from disability, costing your taxpayers, then get a miracle recovery, saying 'I can run for Sheriff?' Where is the honesty and integrity there?"
Davis was peppered with questions about how he spent 10 years on stress disability before taking his pension.
"He was spending your tax dollars ... to me that borderlines fraud," Watson said of Davis.
After a rambling question, Davis snapped at a woman who supports Watson: "What's your question?" The woman responded, "I want to know, would you do something underhanded being the sheriff? Doing something like that -- using my tax dollars when you are not disabled?"
"You have absolutely no knowledge of what you are talking about," Davis told the woman. "You don't know nothing about the pension system."
WAVY.com asked Davis about his interaction with the woman, and he admitted he "lost [his] cool" over the question.
"I was so upset to being called a 'taxpayer fraud' by Watson ... he's the one who breaks the law," Davis said.
Davis, who was a homicide detective, retired from Portsmouth after 36 years of honorable service. He has a certificate at his home calling his service nothing but honorable.
Davis was deemed to have a heart problem, which is always considered to be job-related when you are in law enforcement. It is a stress injury under workers' compensation.
"So the City doesn't want the liability for someone on the street to have a heart attack ... they forced me out to retire, and I fought the City to stay on, and I lost," Davis said.
Now Davis wants to be Portsmouth's sheriff.
"So you are not going to be stressed being the sheriff?" asked the same woman Davis snapped at.
Many in the audience laughed at the question, including Sheriff Watson, who laughed the loudest. The woman continued: "Being sheriff is more stressful."
Davis told WAVY.com the woman was wrong.
"No, it's not a stressful job. You can't compare the stress of a police officer to a sheriff," Davis said. "The sheriff is an administrative job ... all the sheriff does is hire the right people, who take the stress off the sheriff ... every bit of Watson's stress is self imposed, and it's his mouth. If the sheriff shut his mouth, he wouldn't have any stress."
WAVY.com called Sheriff Watson for comment about stress on the job, but he did not return that call.
Joining Sheriff Watson and Ronnie Davis in the race for Portsmouth Sheriff are independents David Cherry and Ron Wood.
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