NEW LONDON, Mo. | The campaign to replace retiring Ralls County Sheriff Gerry Dinwiddie has been both intense and personal.
In 2012, Dinwiddie won a bitterly contested race when he defeated incumbent Sheriff Paul Forney 2,676-2,278.
Then, in 2016, in a race with charges and countercharges, Dinwiddie outpolled two rivals, receiving 2,898 votes compared to 1,130 votes for former deputy Bill Martin, a Democrat, and 1,173 votes going to independent challenger Joe Goodwin.
In the Aug. 4 Republican Primary Election, Ralls County Chief Deputy Ronald Haught Jr. is squaring off with challenger Brad Stinson, a former Ralls County deputy who now works as a police officer in Monroe City. There is no other candidate for the General Election in November.
The race has been hotly contested on social media platforms as supporters trade rumors, while the candidates have focused on issues surrounding the race. But though they are not joining the social media debate, it is clear that neither candidate is fond of the other.
Stinson says flatly that if he is elected, Haught will not continue as chief deputy, saying that he can remain as a deputy, while Haught offers little comment on Stinson.
On the surface, they have much in common. Both have deep roots Ralls County, and both are very supportive of Second Amendment rights and belong totheNRA.Theyboth are active in community organizations.
But that is where the similarities end.
There are two major areas of disagreement between the two: administration of the Sheriff's Department and approaches to patrolling the county.
Haught says that when he joined with Dinwiddie after the 2012 election that the Ralls Sheriff's Department was a poorly organized agency that needed much work.
“After his election (Dinwiddie) in 2012, we worked very hard to return the agency to one that the citizens of our county could truly count on to protect their homes and property. I want to continue to build on that work as we move forward,” Haught said.
Haught said that he has 29 years in law enforcement, the majority of those years in Ralls County. He is also an entrepreneur who owns several businesses.
Haught said the department's resources are properly deployed and he believes that patrolling U.S. 61 and state highways is important for the safety of Ralls County.
“We have faced numerous issues such as COVID- 19, serious injury accidents on U.S. 61 and the use of illegal drugs which leads to assaults, thefts and untimely deaths.” Haught said in a candidate questionnaire. “In response to each of these issues, we have faced them head-on by taking proactive measures to reduce the impact they have on our citizens and personnel.”
Stinson, who is a 2010 graduate of the Law Enforcement Peace Officer Training program from the University of Missouri Extension, is critical of Haught's outside business interests.
“I believe a person running for this position should pledge that he will serve as a full-time sheriff with no other business interests,” Stinson said.
Stinson said that he will place less of an emphasis on patrolling federal and state highways, which he says receive attention from the Missouri Highway Patrol. That change would give the Sheriff's Department a chance to offer more patrols on rural roads.
“Frequent and random patrols of all county roads to thwart residential burglary and other related crimes,” could help, Stinson said.
Stinson said that he will push for the Ralls County Commission to purchase body and vehicle cameras for deputies in order to provide transparency “to the courts and citizens.”
Haught, meanwhile, said the Sheriff's Department is on the right path, and is well-managed for deputies and taxpayers.
Haught said if elected sheriff, he would continue to work closely with the East Central Narcotics Task Force to combat illegal drugs that are sold and transported through the county.