UPDATE 2:30 P.M.
The race for King County Sheriff heated up Wednesday when incumbent Sheriff Steve Strachan and contender, former sheriff’s Sgt. John Urquhart, traded barbs for a good portion of a debate in Renton.
The debate, sponsored by the King County Police Chiefs Association, marked one of the first times that Strachan directly attacked Urquhart. Since announcing his candidacy in April, Urquhart has regularly criticized Strachan’s leadership.
Wednesday’s debate started in a fairly collegial manner with mild answers to questions about management, crime fighting, accountability, community outreach and leadership. While most of the questions, offered by KCTS-TV’s Enrique Cerna, were answered, the candidates deviated to dig at one another. As the nearly 90-minute debate wore on and the insults grew worse, Strachan appeared more and more agitated.
Strachan, 47, was appointed Sheriff after former Sheriff Sue Rahr retired in the spring; he is the former Chief of Police in Kent. He was previously a police chief, city-council member and state legislator in Minnesota. Rahr named him chief deputy in January 2011.
Urquhart, 64, retired as a sergeant last September after 23 years at the Sheriff’s Office. He spent a good portion of his career working as the agency’s media spokesman.
Both candidates are lobbying for change in how the department investigates shootings and other use-of-force incidents involving deputies, following two recent consultants’ reports critical of department oversight.
Urquhart said Strachan has had more than a year to fix problems in the Sheriff’s Office.
Strachan said that he supports the recommendations outlined in the consultants’ reports – many of the recommendations the Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved on Monday. When questioned about Urquhart’s comments, Strachan said he will not turn the issue “political.”
The King County Republican Party on Tuesday endorsed Strachan. The King County Democrats have endorsed Urquhart. The position is officially non-partisan.