NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The woman who will become South Carolina’s first female sheriff said Wednesday she is honored to be the first new sheriff in Charleston County in more than three decades.
“I think the people of Charleston are ready for change,” Sheriff-Elect Kristin Graziano said at a news conference. “When I get in there, and I’ve said this from the beginning, my goal is to do a racial bias audit as well as financial audits. I think it’s critical for us going forward to know what direction we need to go.”
Graziano, who was a deputy under incumbent Al Cannon, had 52% of votes while Cannon received 48%, according to voting totals.
“When you look at the voting totals, we crossed party lines,” she said. “This was not straight-ticket Democrat, Republican. This is what people wanted, and we crossed party lines in this race. That was our goal. I don’t believe this should be a partisan race. Unfortunately it is. And I think...our message resonated with everybody.”
Graziano, when asked whether she planned to retain Cannon’s people in the agency, said “the purge was already underway.”
“I know that are people already leaving the agency,” she said.
She said she believes transparency was a big issue in the race. But she also referred to the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis. His death sparked a wave of protests and violence, including a riot in downtown Charleston on May 30.
“I think it was, it was definitely not in my opponent’s best interest not to embrace the changes that needed to happen. And these are changes that I’ve said that happens from day one, from the very beginning of my campaign," she said. “I will do everything I can to make sure that we’re moving forward, that we own our mistakes, and we move forward as an agency, and especially in law enforcement performance. It’s so desperately needed. My colleagues know that. We need to be supported. And they need to be supported. In order to do that, we have to build relationships in these communities.”
She said she had “boots on the ground” for 30 years and had her finger on the pulse of the community in Febarury.
“I had it on the pulse of the community before February,” she said. “I knew where we needed to go. And, and I will be the candidate, the sheriff that takes us to that next level.”
Cannon, who has served as sheriff of Charleston County for 32 years, said Wednesday morning it has been the honor of his life to serve in the role.
But he acknowledged his stance following the riot, which he said was designed “to try to regain people’s trust in law enforcement,” was “against the agenda of some folks.” He also said the involvement of the American Civil Liberties Union also played a role in her victory.
Graziano said she spoke with Cannon shortly before the news conference and said she is confident he will assist her in transitioning into the sheriff’s role.