CHESTER -- Chester County Sheriff Robby Benson heard Wednesday why voters overwhelmingly chose to replace him.
A day after Fort Lawn Police Chief Richard Smith defeated the two-term incumbent in the Democratic primary, the buzz around town was that Benson hadn't done enough to control the county's drug problem.
But the man who will be sheriff until January has a few theories about why he lost.
"A big issue," he said, "is that a lot of the people that did vote against me are the ones we've arrested, and their family members. ... We continue going after them, and I think we've got a lot of those people upset. I think they're looking at, if they get me out of office, their cases will go away."
Smith disagreed with that notion.
"People want a sheriff that they can get a hold of," he said. "They want something done with these drugs and gangs. ... Convicted felons can't vote -- 2,000 people done spoke up."
Smith won by nearly a 2-1 margin, collecting more than 2,700 votes, according to unofficial results. He'll face no Republican opposition in November.
Benson said he couldn't think of anything he would have done differently in office. He admits he was surprised at how lopsided his loss was, but he said some people just don't understand what his deputies have done.
In the past two years, Benson said, his office has arrested nearly 500 people on drug charges, including those accused of serious offenses such as trafficking. County drug agents have taken more than a dozen cases to federal court.
He also noted that his office doesn't set bonds or prosecute cases. The judicial circuit that includes Chester County has an extensive case backlog that results in many offenders being released on bond and committing other crimes.
"I don't know if they had blinders on or what the situation is," Benson said of those who contend he's not fighting the drug battle.
The events leading up to the sheriff's race didn't bode well for Benson, who campaigned under the cloud of a drug war raging between five neighborhood groups. In April, this violence prompted four shootings in three days, including a homicide.
Benson also had to cope with the issue of the county jail, which has failed state inspections for 17 consecutive years and will be shut down by state officials next year if it isn't brought up to code.
Some voters at the polls Tuesday said Benson seems unresponsive to their needs. They also fear the sheriff's office has too few officers in the community, one of Smith's campaign messages.
"Top heavy," is how former Chester City Councilman George Guy Jr. described the sheriff's office, although he wouldn't reveal the candidate he voted for. "Too many executives and not enough patrolmen."
Sometimes a combination of frustrations -- not a public scandal -- compels voters to remove an incumbent, said Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University. Add to that a challenger who appears concerned, and there is a strong catalyst for a leadership change.
"They have done enough things that have annoyed enough people in different ways that it's just built up this coalition of discontent," Huffmon said, speaking hypothetically. "What could have been the absolute tipping point is when they saw one person appearing to listen to their concerns when felt the incumbent hadn't been listening."
Benson, 48, said he's now considering careers in law enforcement and private security that he might pursue when his term ends.
During his remaining months in office, Benson said he'll continue to work on drug cases and serve the people who elected him in 2000 and 2004, although not this year.
"I'm gonna be fine," he said. "Financially, I'll probably be better off, to be honest with you."
The sheriff serves a four-year term and is paid an annual salary of $56,010.66.