Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Sheriff's race has 'names'
By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer
LEBANON - Sheriff Tom Ariss hopes his record in office, 46 years of law-enforcement experience and the support of fellow Republicans will help him win a fourth term in Republican-dominated Warren County.
But challenger Richard Heath Kilburn, running as an independent, also has a number of factors that could work in his favor, including a well-known family name, ideas for change and a door-to-door campaign aimed at a large pool of undeclared voters.
The county's 75,020 voters with no declared political party far outnumber those who have declared an allegiance, elections-board numbers show. There are 38,468 Republicans, 12,369 Democrats and nine Libertarians.
Kilburn comes from one of the county's largest, best-known Republican families: Cousin Mike is a county commissioner; his dad and uncle were Morrow police chiefs. Richard Heath Kilburn became Morrow's police chief in February.
"I've got a big Republican family, but I knew with him (Ariss) going into this race, my chances would be less if I went as a Republican," Kilburn said. "With that (undeclared) figure, I figured my chances would be best if I would run as an independent."
Ariss said a lot of people know his name, too - and no one knows which way the nonaligned voters will lean on Election Day. "We can all tap into that," Ariss said.
The men are professionally acquainted because Ariss has been sheriff for 12 years and Kilburn has been an officer in Morrow for 10 years.
"We, the sheriff's office, have done a lot of things for the village of Morrow," Ariss said, including providing investigators for serious cases such as a homicide and a bank robbery several years ago.
But Ariss' opponent contends morale has suffered because Ariss has hired retired police officers from surrounding areas to step into high-ranking jobs.
Ariss says he hires qualified people to fill positions, adding, "You can't keep everybody happy all the time."
Kilburn also faults the sheriff for not putting two prisoners in cells in the county jail to make room for more prisoners. Ariss said he thinks Kilburn does not understand the legal and moral reasons for single-bunking the 200-bed jail, which opened in 1996.
Kilburn, 36, noted the sheriff is 68.
"I'm younger, with fresher ideas," Kilburn said. "I feel that this race is up in the air right now."
Ariss asserts he has superior qualifications.
"There's nothing the matter with youth. But I've got experience. And there's a heck of a learning curve, preparing for this job," Ariss said. "I don't know what (Kilburn's) budget is down there, but ours is $10 million and I have 162 employees."
Kilburn oversees 12 officers and a $150,000 budget. But Kilburn said he is confident he could do the job well and would surround himself with good people to help him.
About the candidates