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Election 2018: The battle for Marion County Sheriff

Posted: 10:35 AM, Nov 02, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-02 15:16:39Z

INDIANAPOLIS — Voters in Marion County, Indiana will cast their ballot on Nov. 6 for a new sheriff. 

The seat is open because the current sheriff, Democrat John Layton, has served his two terms, the maximum allowed. 

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department has a $100 million budget. Deputies transport prisoners, maintain the jail, and provide security for the City-County Building. 

Brian Durham is trying to buck the trend of the last 16 years and become the first Republican sheriff Marion County has had since Jack L. Cottey served from 1995-2002.

"The last 16 years the sheriff's office has been Democrat controlled,” Durham said. “Hopefully they are ready for a change to Republican leadership now. I hope this is the right year for that.”

He may be hoping for that, but Democratic Lt. Col. Kerry Forestal wants to continue the grip his party has on the office. And he wants to be able to keep his deputies on staff. 

Forestal said they make 40 percent less than officers with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and 7-22 percent less than officers in surrounding counties.

"We train them and they can walk across the street and take that money and live in a different community,” Forestal said. “We need to keep them here."

The new sheriff, whether it is Durham or Forestal, will lead the transition to the new $570 million criminal justice center that is currently under construction.

The Marion County Sheriff's Department is also tasked with monitoring the approximately 1,750 sex offenders in the county. Forestal says it is the most important thing they do.

“I don't want them to feel comfortable here,” Forestal said. “If they are gonna be released on the street, the courts have decided, parole has decided they're here. I want them to know we still watch them."

"I think those people have a right to be productive members of society, but at the same time we have to make sure women and children in our community are safe,” Marion County resident Martin Taylor said. “Those people need to be checked on a regular basis."

Durham shares those concerns and believes he is the man to make sure those checks continue and be improved, even though his party has a diminishing presence.

"I want to be able to work with a Democratic-controlled council, also with a Democratic mayor,” Durham said. “I want to be able to cross lines and work with them and work with the citizens and voters of Indianapolis, Marion County."

The new sheriff, whether it is Durham or Forestal, will lead the transition to the new $570 million criminal justice center that is currently under construction.

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