There are two big stories to take away from the election results in the Gwinnett County sheriff’s race.
One is that Gwinnett has elected its first Black sheriff. The other is that his election likely signals the end of the county’s participation in the controversial 287(g) program that retiring Sheriff Butch Conway has long been a champion of.
Keybo Taylor, the Democratic Party candidate, defeated Chief Deputy Lou Solis — who was Conway’s handpicked preferred successor — with 230,457 votes, or 57.37% of the votes cast in the race, according to unofficial results.
Taylor’s margin of victory was 59,230 votes over Solis.
“Yesterday, we finished the drill,” Taylor said in a letter to supporters on Wednesday. “You lifted your voices at the polls and stood in solidarity with an agenda that includes all of Gwinnett.”
Taylor was one of several people of color that Gwinnett County voters swept into office on Tuesday as the longtime Republican stronghold turned to Democrats in nearly every local race to be the county’s new leaders.
But, perhaps the biggest area where Taylor’s election will be felt will be in the ongoing debate over whether Gwinnett County should continue participating in the controversial 287(g) program.
Under the program, the sheriff’s office places immigration holds on undocumented residents who are arrested for crimes and booked into the county jail. Those inmates are then turned over to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, through a partnership between ICE and the sheriff’s office.
“Friends, we share the same passions,” Taylor told supporters. “Along the campaign trail, I spent hours listening to your needs. You voiced concerns for community inclusion, neighborhood safety, the 287(g) program and nonviolent interactions with law enforcement personnel.
“In the upcoming months, my team and I will implement robust plans which will address these concerns. My goal as your sheriff is to lead an office that truly serves the needs of every constituent in our county.”
Conway has long touted what he saw as the value of participating in the program, claiming it kept the county safe. Opponents claimed it unfairly targeted Hispanics and led to people in that community being reluctant to report crimes out of fear that they would be deported if they did so.
Taylor has said in the past that he would end the participation of the Sheriff’s Office in the program if he was elected.
Solis conceded the race to Taylor early Wednesday morning, and called for unity behind the incoming new sheriff.
“To all those who voted for and supported my run for Gwinnett County Sheriff, thank you. I won’t forget your kindness,” Solis said in the statement on his Facebook page. “At this time I ask you all to focus on making Gwinnett County united and stronger. This means supporting the new Sheriff-elect Keybo Taylor. I wish him success as the next Gwinnett County Sheriff. I also want to publicly thank my staff and all the hard working Deputies at the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office.”