PARKERSBURG - Out of a field of seven Republicans and two Democrats, incumbent Sheriff Jeff Sandy and former sheriff Ken Merritt came out on top in unofficial voting results after the primary dust settled Tuesday night.
Sandy, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent Merritt will now face-off in November for the general election.
Both candidates took early leads in their respective races and continued to lead their field throughout election evening.
Merritt said he had met with all his opponents and he congratulated them for their efforts.
"You know a lot of people nowadays don't want to get involved, so I congratulate them for running. I had lunch with three of them at least once," Merritt said Tuesday night.
Of his primary victory, Merritt said it felt good.
"I thought the last time I ran would be the last time. But I have been approached over the last three years. I'm not a negative person, but things, I felt, were going in the wrong direction, and that is one of the reasons, along with my wife and family, I decided to run again," he said.
As for the general election in the fall, Merritt said he's well known in the county.
"This will be the 16th time I've run for office in Wood County, I lost the last time. I'm not a politician. I just want to see the people get the best they can, the best protection for their families, the best return on their money," Merritt said.
In West Virginia the sheriff is not only the chief law enforcement officer but also the treasurer for the county.
In unofficial voting, Merritt finished the night with 3,327; Michael D. Burdette received 1,119; Brad Woodburn had 932 votes; Brian R. Dent received 887 votes; Donald Carter got 429; Frank Sampson received 215 votes and Roger Payne received 147 votes.
Sandy finished the night with an unofficial vote total of 3,743, and his opponent Bud Williams received 2,670 votes.
"Whenever an individual can get nearly 60 percent of the vote, you should be very pleased, and myself and my staff are very pleased with the outcome, and the election in the fall will be about what kind of office the citizens of Wood County want. We have modernized, saved the county money and put in checks and balances for the future. The West Virginia auditors have praised what we've done over the past three years to make the office more safe and sound," Sandy said.
"We were very comfortable about the race, we had 680 individuals throughout Wood County working for my campaign, we have a very good team in place, comprised of people from all parties, and we are very proud of that. Many of our supporters believe, in county races, it doesn't matter what party you are, it's about the person," Sandy said. "We are very pleased with the results and we expect to come out strong in the fall."
Merritt served as sheriff for three terms, from 1993-1997, 1997-2001 then 2005 to 2009, before he was defeated in his last run by Sandy. Merritt served as county commissioner from 2001-2004 and prior to that spent more than 20 years as a conservation officer with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, from 1969-1990.
Prior to becoming sheriff, Sandy was supervisory special agent for the Southern Judicial District of West Virginia from 1993 to 1998, and for the state from 1998 to 2001. In 2002, he managed more than 100 investigators and support staff with a budget of more than $43 million. In 2003, he volunteered to work in Iraq and received the Honor Award from the Secretary of Treasury and the Department of Defense Joint Services Achievement Medal for his work.