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FIRST ON 3: Bladen Sheriff's race will be on November ballot

READ MORE: FIRST ON 3: Bladen Sheriff's race will be on November ballot

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- A new sheriff candidate has arrived in Bladen County. This after candidate Prentis Benston thought he might already had the job. It took more than 800 signatures for former state trooper Billy Ward to add his name to the ballot. Now it's up to Bladen County voters to decide who gets the job of Sheriff in November.

Ward petitioned to enter the race for Sheriff as an independent. The requirements: collect 869 signatures from Bladen County voters, that's four percent of the voting population. Ward turned in way more than that.

"The last full batch of petitions I received he had 888, so exceeded the numbers yesterday afternoon, and right now we are still going though a stack of 300 to 400 more," said Bladen County Elections Director Larry Hammond.

Besides the signatures, Ward had to fill out a few more pieces of paper work and pay his filing fee. With a group of family and supporters behind him Ward proudly signed and paid Friday to officially become a candidate for Sheriff.

"This is a miracle," Ward said. "It's a truly miracle. If you believe in miracles and divine intervention, it's happening today."

As for Ward's opponent, Democrat Prentis Benston, who won a run-off against fellow deputy Eric Bryan Tuesday, had very little to say about Ward's late entry during a phone conversation Friday. He said he expected Ward to enter the race in this fashion and is ready for what's ahead.

The two remaining candidates, though, won't be the next sheriff. Current Sheriff Steve Bunn is retiring Wednesday, and commissioners won't appoint an interim sheriff until Thursday night. So under state law, for several hours the county coroner will be sheriff before the interim sheriff is named.

Both candidates say their focus would be on the people of the county. Voters will decide on Bladen County's new sheriff in November.

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