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3 vye for open sheriff’s seat

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GLEN JACKSON
The Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE - The race for Ray Stewart's old job features three Republicans vying for the chance to face a Libertarian in November.

The Republicans - Steve McKinney, James Ledbetter and Johnny Brown - face off March 4 in what has already been a blistering election season with allegations of extra-marital affairs, alleged illegal acts committed by sheriff employees and other forms of mudslinging.

However, the candidates for sheriff (Libertarian Mike Treis refused to answer questions pertaining to this story) have laid out detailed policy positions they hope will carry them over the top in the primary.

James Ledbetter, best known for his campaigns for sheriff as a Democrat in the early 90s, is running as a Republican this go-around and despite the criticism for that move, his campaign is focusing on his experience.

'I was hired by Sheriff Stewart 10 months after he took office and continue to work for him,' said Ledbetter, who started voting Republican in 2002. 'I have investigated criminal cases for 30 years, having successfully investigated capital [murder] cases, as well as many other types of cases… [County] Judge Chad Adams [told] me my background and experience was impeccable.'

Constable Steve McKinney, appointed to the Precinct 4 slot by county commissioners last year, assembled an all-star cast that he hopes will avoid a run-off like County Judge Chad Adams accomplished in 2002 in a five-way race for that seat.

With former Court at Law Judge Bob Carroll as his treasurer and former Ellis County Chronicle reporter LeAnn Brindle as his campaign manager, the stakes are set high for McKinney, a Department of Public Safety trooper for 23 years.

'Of course, I am a different person, with my own views, opinions and strengths,' McKinney said.

'Things will be different because I will lead in my capacity to bring about changes that emphasize what I believe is important to meet the needs of the public and the office.

'I will be a communicator, I will have an open administration and will be fiscally responsible with the taxpayers' money to bring the most effective programs and lead the department as a premier law enforcement agency.'

Quick response times for deputies, maintaining a constant presence in targeted neighborhoods and access to quick public information are also McKinney's high points, he said.

'I will also implement a very strong sex offender registration program,' he said. 'As a sheriff's deputy, one of my duties was sex offender registrant and I understand what is needed for a very strong program.'

Brown, a former narcotics investigator and current ECSO employee, said he sees no need for an increased staff at the department.

'The sheriff's office is dynamic,' said Brown, a Midlothian resident. '[We're] going to increase as population increases, but there are ways to slow the increase down. More training and performance standards that demands higher proficiency from personnel, [taking] advantage of volunteers and citizens that want to be a part of our community. They provide more eyes on the street without a salary.'

Brown said he wants to establish a Citizen's Crime Commission, Citizens On Patrol and an active youth Explorer's program.

His ideas also include creating a countywide special response team that would consist of an officer in each Ellis County law enforcement agency to provide a 'seamless response to any emergency anywhere in the county.'

McKinney, who also resides in Midlothian and will battle Brown for the majority of those conservative votes, also wants an Explorer's program, but his platform mirrors in some areas to that of Brown's.

'I will reinstitute the sheriff's posse to aid in search and rescue efforts,' McKinney said. 'I will update and address concerns within the chaplain services of the jail.'

McKinney said he also wants to create an opportunity for inmates to obtain their GED. 'I believe education is a major factor in rehabilitation.'

Ledbetter said his experience will set him apart from the pack. The winner of the March 4 primary will face token opposition in November from Libertarian Party candidate Mike Treis.

'I have experience in all areas of the sheriff's office,' Ledbetter, a Maypearl resident, said. 'I feel that my experience in administrative duties, such as budget preparation and expenditures of both the sheriff's office and the county jail have better prepared me for the duties of the office…I have not asked anyone to do anything that I haven't done or will do. I have made this sheriff's office my life and deeply care for the people of the office as well as the people of this county.'

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