The Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs Association on Thursday announced its endorsement of Douglas Orr over Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich in this year’s race for the county’s top law enforcement official.
Orr, a Spokane police detective, is expected to file to run for sheriff against Knezovich, and the two Republicans already have met in one debate.
The official filing period is the week of May 12.
About half the 205 members in the deputy association voted on the endorsement, with Orr receiving 56 votes and Knezovich receiving 50 votes, according to association President Walter Loucks.
Loucks said many of the deputies who didn’t vote were reluctant to take the risk of choosing sides in the race.
He said the preference for Orr probably stemmed from concern about improvements within the sheriff’s office and opportunities for career advancement. They also believed that Orr could take the sheriff’s office in a new direction.
Orr said he was humbled by the deputies’ backing.
Knezovich said the fact that half of the membership did not vote and that the count was close among those who did means the endorsement is not a strong message for voters.
The deputy association has a pending unfair labor practice complaint against the sheriff over his firing of a deputy caught having sex on duty.
The sheriff and the association are also in a stalemate over a new labor contract.
In addition, the sheriff has drawn criticism for pushing legislation to ensure that officers who break the law can be fired and not reinstated by a state arbitrator. The legislation has stalled during each of the past two sessions.
Knezovich was initially appointed sheriff in 2006 to replace departing Sheriff Mark Sterk. He subsequently won the election to a four-year term later that year and was re-elected in 2010.