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Doug Clark: Race for sheriff is debate-intensive

Doug Clark
Doug Clark


Wednesday, 4:57 p.m. – We’re an hour and counting away from OZ vs. ORR I, the first debate* between Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and his opponent, Douglas Orr, a Spokane detective with a Ph.D. in criminal justice.

(*This debate is brought to you by the 6th District Democrats and the letter “P” as in “prevarication,” I mean, “politics.”)

4:58 – That Ph.D. poses a lot of questions. Like, if we elect this guy will we have to call him Dr. Sheriff?

I don’t know if I’m comfortable with having a public official so much smarter than me. Or is it I?

4:59 – The Spokane City Council Chambers is practically empty except for me, some guy who might be sleeping in a back row plus Oz, who looks like he’d rather be anywhere else.

4:59:30 – “I don’t like politics,” mutters the sheriff, who doesn’t have a Ph.D.

5:00 – I turn off my computer and …

5:58 – Oz and Orr meet with a referee to go over the last-minute rules of engagement: No rabbit punches. No clinching. And no hitting below the belt unless you’re certain you can get away with it.

The usual debate stuff, in other words.

6:04 – Mary Wissink, the emcee, says Oz won the coin flip and gets to speak first. She fails to mention, however, whether he gave back the coin.

6:05 – In their opening statements we learn that the sheriff is a man of vision and that the challenger is firm yet fair.

Good grief. I came for a slugfest, not a hugfest.

6:09 – Mary the emcee announces that a decision was made earlier to NOT discuss any personnel issues.

This is an outrage. The public has a right to know a lot more about that deputy who got fired for having sex on duty.

6:10 – If elected, Orr says he will put the review process on a webcam for everyone to see.

Now we’re talking!

6:17 – The debate slogs into confusion over the rules of rebuttal. There was a time not so long ago when real sheriff candidates settled issues like this out in streets.

6:18 – Orr makes a great point by saying that statistics are “like a bikini.” Sadly, I lose track of everything that came after the word bikini.

6:27 – Fact: Some 46 deputies are eligible to retire in the next few years. On the plus side, this does significantly diminish your odds of getting a ticket.

6:33 – “You have to have thick skin” to be sheriff, says Oz. I believe him. In his size-54 suit, Ozzie Knezovich looks about as soft as a cement mixer.

6:34 – Not to be cruel. But next to the bearlike sheriff, Orr looks more like a librarian.

6:35 – Mary the emcee tells Oz he’s “out of order.” Hmm. Sheriff Wissink has a ring to it.

6:36 – Talk turns to the proper use of drones.

6:38 – Oz draws applause by playing “the U.S. Constitution” card.

6:42 – “Do you believe in gun control?” asks Wissink.

Actually, I’d rather hear the candidates talk more about debate control.

6:45 – Sheriff Oz seems to be winning this shindig on time management. I swear he’s yakking three times more than poor Orr.

If the Seahawks control the ball this much against the 49ers, they’re going to the Super Bowl.

6:51 – Oz says he’s still putting up with a DOS computer system. He’d get rid of it, but the Pong game is so groovy.

6:54 – The sheriff says he parts company with Orr when it comes to truth, facts and integrity.

Boom goes the dynamite!

6:58 – We do not need a $200 million jail, says Orr. We certainly don’t as long as we have the Ridpath Hotel.

7:05 – I think I …

7:17 – … dozed off or …

7:28 – … something.

7:30 – The debate finally ends and on a potentially troubling note. Some of the people sitting next to me swear they heard Orr challenge Oz to 30 more of these things.

“Thirty? As in 3-0?” I ask.

They nod their heads.

Well, if such a thing actually happens, then society will have finally answered that old question.

You know, the one about what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or

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