“DeKalb County voters will decide in July whether the unelected incumbent sheriff or the county’s former CEO will be their new sheriff.

Incumbent Jeff Mann, appointed in March, took an early lead over former CEO Vernon Jones but never managed to capture the 50 percent plus-one needed to avoid a runoff in the eight-candidate race, according to preliminary results releasted late Tuesday. With all but two of the county’s 189 precincts reporting, it appeared impossible for third-place candidate, Atlanta Police Sgt. Melvin Mitchell, to make it to the July 22 election.

“This was always a race between Jones and an incumbent who was not elected,” said Steve Anthony, the former head of the Democratic Party of Georgia who now teaches politics at Georgia State University. “The real race will be the runoff.”

Jones was the most well-known candidate in the crowded sheriff field and also reported the most flush campaign account. His campaign disclosures filed with the DeKalb Elections Office showed he collected $96,620, including $25,000 he lent to his campaign. Mann reported the second-largest collections, of $72,358.

DeKalb’s cloud of scandal over several other elected offices did not appear to drive residents to the polls. DeKalb election chief Maxine Daniels said turnout was just under 20 percent of the county’s 390,000 active voters.

Precincts in south DeKalb, Jones’ traditional stronghold, reported being busy when polls first opened and appeared to support his return to office. Precincts in central and north DeKalb appeared to be more steady throughout the day with northern precincts voting heavily in favor of Mann.”