Incumbent Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott appeared to sweep aside the competition in Tuesday's general election, earning a third term in office.
With about 88 percent of the precincts accounted for, Scott claimed 99,228 votes, or 64.95 percent of the total votes cast. Challenger Lee Bushong took second place with 53,199 votes, or 34.82 percent total.
Scott ran as a Republican; Bushong ran with no party affiliation.
Write-in candidate Christian Meister scored third place with 348 votes.
Scott did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
Bushong was surprised at what appeared to be a loss.
"Based off of the feedback that I've gotten along the trail and the campaign, I was shocked," he said, adding that voters repeatedly expressed support.
"They were certainly, on the surface, appeared favorable to us," he said. "With that, we had a good thought that this was going to be a successful venture."
Bushong admitted that he knew it would be close race.
"This is the tightest race that he's ever won," he said Scott.
Bushong pointed to his own decision to run with no party affiliation.
"I think that may have ended up hurting us in the long wrong," he said.
Though he would not start a campaign again as early as he did this time around, Bushong said everyone who helped him should hold their head high.
"I'm very pleased with the efforts of every person that was involved," he said. "And I respect the decision of the voters of Lee County."
Asked about another run at the sheriff's seat, Bushong confirmed it.
"We will run again," he said. "We're not fading away."
Meister thanked all of the people who supported him and his campaign, and explained that the apparent outcome was close to what he had predicted.
"I figured I'd come in with 1 percent to 6 percent," he said.
"But just because I didn't win this election, doesn't mean that my job is done," Meister said. "My mission is to educate people on the importance of the sheriff, that he can have immediate impact by refusing to enforce a law or ordinance that violates the Constitution."
He called the sheriff a gatekeeper against criminal and government abuse.
Meister also expressed interest in running again for the seat.
"If I do, I'd want to team up with someone who has experience with putting two or three sheriffs in place," he said.
Asked about any comments for the winner, Meister had one.
"I would hope that the sheriff who wins this race would look into what it means to take an oath of office to protect the Constitution," he said.