NEW LONDON, Mo. -- The race for Ralls County sheriff took on a new twist over the weekend when the incumbent said he is launching a write-in campaign.
Sheriff Gerry Dinwiddie, who announced his retirement after eight years as sheriff earlier this year, announced on Sunday that he is organizing a write-in campaign to retain his job.
Dinwiddie is running against Brad Stinson, a former Ralls County deputy and current Monroe City Police officer who defeated Ralls County Chief Deputy Ronald Haught, 1,764 -867 for the Republican nomination in the Aug. 4 primary election.
With no opponent on the Democratic side, Stinson had what appeared to be a clear path to assuming the office as sheriff in January.
However, on Sunday by Dinwidde threw his hat into the ring.
Dinwiddie, who was elected to his first term as Ralls County Sheriff in 2012 and re-elected in a three-way race in 2016, ran in the Aug. 4 primary election against incumbent Ralls County Coroner Robert Van Winkle, losing by a 1,639-898 margin.
The bitter Primary Election campaign between Haught and Stinson was highlighted by an intense third-party social media campaign against Haught that was filled with personal character attacks.
Stinson said during an interview on Sunday that he was not associated with the social media campaign, and in fact asked that it stop.
"He said he was exercising his First Amendment rights," Stinson said of one of the organizers of the social media attacks. "I did not ask for nor seek" the social media posts, Stinson added.
Dinwiddie said what he called a "nasty" campaign against Haught convinced him to run for re-election.
"During this primary, I witnessed and saw, like you have seen, the ugliness of politics and the nasty manner in which social media can be used by a few to further selfish motives," Dinwiddie said in a weekend announcement. "I, like many of you, watched as an inexperienced incompetent person was supported and propelled to win a primary by others with corrupted values and political goals. I believe we have an opportunity to correct this mistake and not allow this national bullying to happen in our county."
Stinson discounted Dinwiddie's challenge, saying that a write-in campaign was difficult, and that his showing in the primary election proved that people were seeking a change in the Ralls County Sheriff's Department.
Stinson said he intends to make the office more accountable and transparent to the public by getting car cameras and body cameras for patrol vehicles and deputies.
"I will also be available to people unlike the current sheriff. We will be very open as we serve citizens," Stinson said. "I am running for sheriff because I want to work for the citizens of Ralls County, not because I didn't like the results of an election, but because I truly care about the professionalism and compassion that the office should reflect. Had my declared write-in opponent felt this way, then I believe he would have run for sheriff instead of coroner during the Primary Election."
Stinson said Tuesday night said that Haught would not be employed when he takes office.
Haught, though, said on Sunday that he intends to leave the Ralls County Sheriff's Department, regardless of the outcome.
"I will not be returning to the office as chief deputy," Haught said.
In a message to supporters, Haught urged support for Dinwiddie's campaign.
"He feels strongly that this past primary election was stolen from us by a person who is not fit for the office and sold the people of the county a bill of goods while idly standing by and allowing the Democrats to attack and defame me," Haught said.
Stinson, meanwhile, said that he will continue campaigning, though he will make preparations to take office as sheriff.
"As Nov. 3 quickly approaches, I wanted to give an update on my progress. The past month-and-a-half has been filled with meetings, organizing staff and acquiring bids," Stinson wrote to supporters on his Facebook page. "It's true that I am not officially sheriff-elect until November 3. However, I want to hit the ground running if the people so choose to have me."
Dinwiddie defended his record and said that Ralls County has witnessed an exodus of experienced deputies since Stinson's primary win in August.
"Since the primary almost, 90% of the staff who has served over the last eight years has resigned or plan to resign," Dinwiddie said. "A few have taken positions in neighboring counties, who were eager to have them on their staff, while others have simply left law enforcement for other employment altogether. This is just wrong and should not happen."