4 Republicans fight to unseat sheriff in Shelby Co. - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

4 Republicans fight to unseat sheriff in Shelby Co.

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SHELBY COUNTY, TX (KTRE) -

Four contenders are seeking the Republican nomination for Shelby County sheriff. All come with law enforcement experience. There's a police officer, and a former sheriff's deputy, game warden and probation officer.

Right now, Sheriff Newton Johnson can sit back and watch the Republican primary unfold and contemplate why so many people are after his job.

"I thought maybe the commissioners had given me a raise and didn't tell me about it," Johnson said. "That's the first time I've had this many opponents at one time.">

Center Police Detective Joey Haley's decision to run is based in part of being accused of lying to a grand jury concerning his investigation into a fight between two Shelby County deputies.

Haley was acquitted, just like a fired sheriff's deputy. Mark McAvoy was later arrested and tried for animal abuse. After being found innocent, he filed a civil lawsuit. All that is on Haley's mind too.

"Thousands of dollars was spent to go get him from New England and I felt like it was a waste of money," Haley said.

Josh Tipton says his decision to run for sheriff stems from what he saw when he worked inside the sheriff's department as a deputy.

"I actually seen firsthand inside what was gong on, what needed to be changed," Tipton said. "The corruption here in Shelby County and the good ol' boy system we've had for numerous years. People of Shelby County are tired of it and so am I."

Former probation officer Troy Massey says he's running to fix what he calls a broke system.

"I think things are not working," Massey said. "I've always been that proactive type guy. We need new ideas."

Massey says his experience is unlike any of the other candidates.

"No other candidate has got a college education," Massey said. "None. There's no candidate that has 23 years of management experience, proven management experience. There's no other candidate that has been in law enforcement that has helped write grants, received those grants."

Willis Blackwell appears to have an ideal lifestyle. He dishes up a tasty brisket sandwich at the barbeque restaurant he owns and manages, but this retired game warden says law enforcement runs in his blood.

"You live law enforcement," Blackwell said. "I hear some of the candidates say people are stale in law enforcement. If they are, law enforcement wasn't their life. That's what it is to me."

Blackwell was a Shelby County chief deputy under a former sheriff. He states what he sees different about the office.

"We have more law enforcement officers in Shelby County than we've ever had in the history of Shelby County," Blackwell said. "And to me, we have less enforcement being done than what's ever been done in the history of Shelby County."

Each candidate has individual law enforcement styles, but agree they're hearing the same thing from residents.

"I think they're putting that statement forward, they want things changed," Blackwell said.

Johnson has walked the S.O. hallways since 2005. He's experienced as a lawman and a political campaigner. In both counts, he knows when he's got his work cut out for him.

"In any political race most everybody is concerned," Johnson said. "There are some good challengers out there and I take each one of them serious."

He could know his contender as early as May 29, but with four candidates, a July 31 runoff will most likely extend the longest primary in history.

Copyright 2012 KTRE. All rights reserved.

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