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Sheriff hopefuls face off before Tuesday primary

August 7, 2010
Kylie Saari — Sentinel Staff Writer

TRUMAN - For just over two months, five Martin County law enforcement officers have gone door-to-door talking with residents.

They've put up yard signs, taken out media advertisements and tried to get the message out for why they believe they would be the best candidate to lead the Martin County Sheriff's Department when current Sheriff Brad Gerhardt retires.

Friday, however, was the first and last time all five candidates were before a community in a debate open to the public. Truman resident and mayoral hopeful Brad Berg invited the five men to the Truman Community Building to introduce themselves and answer questions.

Despite the unique character of Martin County's race - it is rare to have five candidates for sheriff - only a handful of voters turned out to hear the debate. The large room was filled mostly with each candidate's support team.

Undeterred, Sherburn/Welcome Police Chief Brad Hughes, Sheriff's Deputy Chad Petschke, Fairmont Police Officer Jaime Bleess, Fairmont Police Officer Lowell Spee, and Sheriff's Chief Deputy Jeff Markquart discussed issues ranging from the county jail - the state Department of Corrections recently notified the county of a pending decision to degrade the jail from a 365-day facility to a 90-day facility - to concerns about budgeting and overtime, and whether the department was prepared for an emergency.

The candidates, who have all worked together in some capacity or another over their years of service in the same county, have run a clean campaign, focusing on their individual strengths instead of the perceived weaknesses of their competitors.

Friday's debate was no different, as the men joked with each other and stated their campaign positions, without reference to another's position. Often they said they agree with each other on certain points.

There was one point all candidates did agree on - the importance of voting in the primary election Tuesday.

With primaries traditionally not well attended and five candidates on the ballot, each vote is important in determining which two of the five will go on to the vote in November and who will be the next Martin County sheriff.

"Your vote will change percentages," said Bleess. "It really, really does make a difference."



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