The sheriffs races in Ada and Canyon counties are remarkably similar. In both counties, voters can choose between experience and ideology.
Incumbent Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney and Canyon County Chief Deputy Kieran Donahue are seasoned law enforcement veterans facing opposition from outsiders who embrace the constitutional sheriff concept. The central thesis of this movement is that individual rights are under siege, and that only a county sheriff is best positioned to stand up to overreaching federal agencies.
Says Robert Muse, the independent candidate opposing Donahue, The sheriff is the supreme law of the land within the county.
This kind of rhetoric may have some appeal to voters who dislike or distrust Uncle Sam. But county sheriff is a complicated job and law enforcement and administrative experience is crucial. Raney and Donahue have this experience, and deserve voters support on Nov. 6.
On Oct. 1, the Ada County sheriffs department assumed a new responsibility: misdemeanor probation services, which had been handled by a private contractor. The stakes are high, for offenders and taxpayers alike. Effective probation services can reduce reoffense rates and ease the pressure on the county jail. This is more likely to happen with an experienced administrator on the job.
Ultimately, this is an administrative job, as the sheriff oversees 652 employees and a $57 million budget. The sheriff administers the county jail and, citing inmate numbers that have held steady since 2005, Raney believes the county wont need an expensive expansion in the near future. Being sheriff is also a contract-management job, as the sheriffs office provides police services in Eagle, Star and Kuna.
Libertarian challenger Ted Dunlap is a perennial candidate, having run for everything from Kuna City Council to governor. Raney is a 29-year department veteran with eight years in the top job. There is no reason for voters to make a change here.
With Canyon County Sheriff Chris Smith stepping down, Donahue is the de facto incumbent and Smiths heir apparent.
Donahues law enforcement experience is solid including detective work in the drug unit and work on a regional task force on gangs. Just as important, he understands the administrative challenges facing a department that is weathering nearly $500,000 in budget cuts for 2012-13.
He recognizes, rightly, that the county cannot afford to lose experienced officers to higher-paying jobs elsewhere in the Valley. And on the departments big-ticket crisis an aging and overcrowded jail he advocates working with smaller, neighboring counties. This is a promising idea; a regional jail could defray costs and reduce the size of a county jail bond issue.
After three failed bond issues, the jail looms as a law enforcement and political challenge for the countys next sheriff. Donahue is better qualified to address this situation from Day 1.
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