An exhausted Jeff Crouch, winner of the race for Latah County sheriff, said Wednesday he’s glad the bitter race is over.
“I haven’t slept too much in the last two days,” said Crouch, a Moscow police officer. He’ll take over for outgoing sheriff Joe Overstreet in January.
Crouch, a Democrat, beat Republican candidate Kenny Piel 9,005 to 6,584. Both candidates said they were surprised by the relatively large margin.
“I made a critical error. I didn’t address head-on the blitzkrieg of negative campaigning against me. I tried to ignore it,” said Piel, a private investigator.
Piel said he’s not sure if he’ll run for office again. If Crouch does a good job as sheriff, he said, there will be no reason to.
“I’m not tickled to death about the results,” Piel said. “But I always support the voters’ right to decide. I hope everyone will get behind Jeff and give him the best chance possible to be successful.”
For months, the candidates and their supporters sparred over allegations of wrongdoing.
Piel was the subject of a whisper campaign over three misdemeanor charges, all more than a decade old. Crouch was accused of illegally checking candidates’ criminal backgrounds with a police computer.
Upon taking office, Crouch said, he’ll shift equipment to patrol and jail deputies. Taking a page from Piel’s campaign platform, Crouch said he also intends to develop a policy manual for consistent policing. He also plans to push for so-called “enhanced 911” in rural areas. The emergency telephone system shows a caller’s address and the homeowner’s name.
Crouch, 32, grew up a police officer’s son in Connecticut. He served with the Air Force and Air National Guard, then joined the Moscow Police Department as a patrolman in 1993.
“To me, being elected is just the start of a whole new set of challenges,” said Crouch.