Sunday, May 26, 2002

Silence is golden in sheriff's race

Those wishing to replace slain lawman pick words carefully

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        SOMERSET, Ky. — Despite his murder last month, Sam Catron remains the central figure in the race for Pulaski County sheriff.

        He looms larger than life at political rallies where candidates seeking to replace him speak reverently of the lawman who was killed by a sniper on April 13.

        Candidates dare not offend Catron loyalists, especially those running for sheriff. They are guarding their words when they speak of changes they'd make in the sheriff's department out of fear that something said might be construed as a criticism of the slain lawman.

        “The murder certainly put a different spin on the race,” said Pulaski County Clerk Willard Hansford. “It's a quiet race. I'm sure these guys are working, but you just don't hear it being talked about.”

        The race for the Republican nomination for sheriff started with five candidates, but now is effectively down to three — Kenneth “Kay” Stringer, a retired chief of detectives from the Somerset Police Department; Todd Wood, a current detective with the Somerset department; and Martin Calhoun, a brake factory worker with no law enforcement experience.

        Sheriff Catron, 48, of Somerset, was killed at a political rally in Shopville where he was campaigning. One of his Republican challengers, Jeff Morris, 34, of Somerset, was arrested along with two of his campaign workers for Mr. Catron's murder.

        Mr. Stringer said his experience at all levels of law enforcement makes him the best candidate to run the sheriff's department in the southern Kentucky county. Mr. Wood said he wants to bring needed technological upgrades to the sheriff's department, including cameras and computers in cruisers. Mr. Calhoun said he simply offers himself as another choice on the ballot.

        The top voter-getter of the three in next Tuesday's primary election will face the lone Democratic candidate, Norris Whitaker, a U.S. Air Force retiree, in November to determine the permanent replacement for Mr. Catron. No Democrat has won election as Pulaski County sheriff in more than 20 years. Republicans outnumber Democrats here by 26,127 to 10,719.

        State police Detective Todd Dalton said Mr. Catron was killed to get him out of the running. He was seeking re-election to a fifth term as sheriff.


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- Silence is golden in sheriff's race