Republican Hales joins race for sheriff as jail expansion looms large

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT)- A week after a pair of Democrats and current Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office employees- Jason Ashworth and Noah Robinson filed in the May 3 primary, a Republican and former employee joined the fray Wednesday.

Retired Evansville Police Department detective Jeff Hales touted his military and law enforcement experience, including several years as a confinement officer in the 1990s, as he spoke to supporters inside the Civic Center Wednesday morning. Hales, who does not expect another Republican challenger before the primary, says not having a true primary will help him as the general election approaches in November.

Hales says he will be able to “sit back” as Robinson and Ashworth discuss their platforms. Hales says he’ll use the time to develop “an offense and a defense” for their strategy, while also forming his own strategy.

While Hales discussed broad parts of his platform Wednesday morning, including bringing in a third-party agency to review deputy-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. While that policy puts him in line with Robinson and Ashworth, it puts him on the opposite side of fellow Republican and current Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding.

Wedding called it a “cool thing to campaign on” but he says he trusts his investigators in those cases. Wedding and Hales do agree on at least one major issue, though: jail expansion. Sheriff Wedding says he’s been working on expanding the existing jail for much of his time as Sheriff, saying he’s begged local, state, and federal leaders for help.

While Hales opted not to give specifics on how or when he would expand the jail, Sheriff Wedding says whoever replaces him will need to make expansion a priority in a county where 45,000 people have been incarcerated in the past five years.

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