Sunday, February 10, 2002

Criminals or not, four sheriffs want jobs back

The Associated Press

        WEST LIBERTY, Ky. — At least four former Eastern Kentucky sheriffs are trying to regain their posts in the May primary after being removed from office because of criminal charges.

        • Roger Benton, 55, a former three-term Morgan County sheriff, was convicted in federal court in 1987 of accepting $10,000 to protect drug deals.

        • Paul L. Browning Jr., 56, a former Harlan County sheriff, was convicted in state court in 1982 of plotting to kill two county officials.

        • Douglas Brandenburg, 54, served four terms as Lee County judge-executive before being ousted by voters in 1989. He was in a second term as sheriff in 1994 when he pleaded guilty to federal charges of obstructing justice.

        • Ray Clemons, 53, a former Breathitt County sheriff, was sentenced to a year in prison in 1997 for failing to report drug activity in his own family.

        Political scientists say the fact the disgraced former sheriffs still feel electable illustrates problems with politics in rural Kentucky.

        “Obviously, nothing like this would fly in Lexington,” said University of Kentucky professor Bradley Canon.

        Paul Blanchard, an Eastern Kentucky political-science professor, said tainted candidates appear viable because support is based less on issues and job performance than on “personal qualities,” such as kinship, friendship and favors.

        Lindsey Back, a Morehead State history professor, said the issue made him apprehensive about the ability of voters to make good judgments.


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