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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Voters pick Nowels to replace Knezovich as sheriff

Undersheriff John Nowels will be the new sheriff after defeating longtime sheriff’s office employee Wade Nelson in Tuesday’s general election.

Nowels received 58.4% of the votes while Nelson gathered 39.5%, according to unofficial results on Tuesday. The remaining 2.1% of votes were write-ins.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who did not seek a fifth term after 16 years in office, endorsed Nowels for the top position in the department. Nowels, Nelson and Knezovich are Republicans.

Nowels, who attended the Republican election night party at the Historic Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane, said he received support from his “fantastic team” and the public.

“I really couldn’t be happier with the results, but there’s a lot of work to do,” Nowels said. “Making sure that we address the crime we’re seeing is a tall task. I’m up to it, and I think the voters believe that I have a plan to address it.”

Nowels has worked 24 years at the sheriff’s office, starting out as a patrolman before serving as a detective, chief criminal deputy and the past three years as undersheriff.

Nowels said earlier this year reducing violent crime will be one of his areas of focus if elected.

He said people are “extremely concerned about violent crime,” which is “on a level we have never seen here in Spokane.”

“We have drive-by shootings happening frequently,” he said. “We have gun battles in the streets in broad daylight. We didn’t see that 10 years ago. We didn’t see it five years ago, and we see it now. It is a huge threat to our community and to our safety. We have to start holding people accountable.”

Nowels said gangs and drug trafficking are driving much of the violence and that 40% of Spokane County homicides last year were connected to drugs. He said working to fix the drug problem would help reduce crime.