Democrats in Swain Sheriff race prepare for runoff

On Tuesday (June 22), Swain County voters will decide which Democrat will face Republican Curtis Cochran in the hotly contested sheriff’s race this fall.

Though candidate John Ensley won the primary with an impressive 28 percent of the vote — despite competing with seven other candidates — it was not the 40 percent he needed to avoid a runoff election

Runner-up Mitchell Jenkins, who won 285 votes compared to Ensley’s 513, called for a second round.

Whoever wins the second primary will face Sheriff Cochran, who has held the seat for four years. In the Republican primary this year, Cochran won in a landslide with 525 votes, compared to his lone competitor Wayne Dover’s 156 votes.

With the sheriff’s race the most heated election in the county, candidates were lining up and campaigning more than a year before the actual primary.

In his campaign, Ensley emphasizes community involvement with the sheriff’s office, more education for officers, outreach programs in the school system and better networking with surrounding counties.

Ensley, 42, is the owner of Yellow Rose Realty but also a North Carolina certified law enforcement officer. He has worked as a jailer in Florida and worked for the Swain’s Sheriff’s Office for nearly two years.

Jenkins, 52, is a self-employed logger with nine years of law enforcement experience, including eight years as chief deputy in Swain County and one year in the Bryson City Police Department.

Jenkins is running because he’d like to establish a better working relationship between the sheriff’s office and the public. Jenkins said he’d also respect the confidentiality of those who phone in tips to the sheriff’s office.

Early voting will take place until Saturday, June 19. To find out more, contact the Board of Elections.

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