John Ingram filed to run for sheriff of Brunswick County today. It could be one of the most interesting local races this election season.
For the first time in 14 years, Brunswick County residents will elect someone other than Ronald Hewett to serve as their sheriff. The popular sheriff went to prison for obstruction of justice in 2008, and Ingram was appointed to fill his seat.
Ingram has worked for the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office since 1991. In 2008, he was one of more than a dozen deputies subpoenaed to testify about the sheriff's behavior. Deputies said Hewett did everything from coming to crime scenes drunk to having them do his campaign work while on the clock.
"It was a very unnerving time, difficult time for a lot of people," Ingram said.
After Hewett was convicted, the Brunswick County Democratic Party appointed Ingram to take Hewett's place as sheriff. Then in November Ingram dropped a bombshell, switching his political party and announcing his intention to run for the Republican sheriff's nomination in 2010.
"I wanted the voters to know who I am as an individual and what my views are and values," Ingram said, "and being a registered Republican would better reflect those views and values."
Ingram will face at least one challenger. Tim Daniels, a sergeant with the State Highway Patrol, has also filed to run.
"I think I have a lot to offer the department," Daniels said. "My integrity, my character, my professional education, my progressive experience in law enforcement and climbing through the ranks of the North Carolina Highway Patrol."
Daniels, a Brunswick County native, was a life-long Democrat, but recently switched his political affiliation as well. Like Ingram, Daniels says he took a lot of flack for changing parties, but says his beliefs more closely align with the Republican Party.
Unless a third challenger comes forward in the next few days before the filing period ends, these two Republicans will be the only two candidates in the sheriff's race. That means the election will likely be decided in the primary this May, and unless the county's 28,000 registered Democrats change their political affiliation, they won't be eligible to vote in the sheriff's primary.
"It would be a shame if people who want to support me wouldn't be able to support me because they're not aware that in order to do that they're going to need to be unaffiliated or a Republican," Daniels said.
Another interesting twist in this race, Hewett has announced who he's endorsing. We'll tell you about that tomorrow and take a look at the potential political baggage of an endorsement from a man who was just released from prison.