Lieutenant wins in Douglas County sheriff primary

photo by: Contributed Photo

Lt. Jay Armbrister

Story updated at 11 p.m. Tuesday:

Lt. Jay Armbrister has won the race for Douglas County sheriff by close to 1,340 votes, according to unofficial election results Tuesday night.

Barring a remarkably successful write-in campaign, Armbrister will likely be elected sheriff in the November general election and be sworn in early next year.

Armbrister, Deputy Dale Flory and Capt. Doug Woods all filed to run as Democrats. No Republicans filed, despite the seat long being held by a Republican, now-retired Sheriff Ken McGovern, who had not faced an opponent in a primary or general election since he was first elected in 2004.

Armbrister, 44, of Baldwin City, has worked for the sheriff’s office for 22 years as of next week. Flory, 45, of Baldwin City, has been with the department for 24 years as of next month. Woods, 52, of Lawrence, has been with the department for 33 years, since January 1987.

Armbrister led with 6,514 votes, or 39.8%. Woods had 5,175, or 31.4%, and Flory had 4,774, or 29%. About 1,340 votes separated Armbrister and Woods, and about 400 votes separated Woods and Flory.

Reached by phone earlier Tuesday, when 87% of precincts were reporting, Armbrister said he was “cautiously optimistic.” He said he thought this race was a clear indication that people are ready for change and that they’re looking for somebody they can rely on to do hard work.

As the Journal-World reported, Woods had led fundraising in the race for sheriff. Between Jan. 1 and July 23, his campaign raised $28,316, according to his campaign finance report. Armbrister had raised $20,248, and Flory $7,101. However, the fundraising did not predict how the race would turn out.

Armbrister has named Capt. Stacy Simmons as his undersheriff candidate.

In previous interviews with the Journal-World, Armbrister said one of his top priorities as sheriff would be the mental health of first responders, as well as inmates and “anyone else who finds themselves in crisis.” As part of his duties with the sheriff’s department, Armbrister works full time at the Douglas County Jail, which has been the subject of a controversial expansion plan.

Armbrister said he understood why county commissioners approved an expansion of the jail and why the county commission is now revisiting the expansion plan, which is currently on hold. In mid-July, he said current inmate numbers at the jail are manageable but that he’s seen some “unfair situations” arise in more crowded times at the jail.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact public safety reporter Mackenzie Clark:

More 2020 election coverage: Douglas County sheriff race

July 30, 2020: Douglas County sheriff candidates address budget experience, release of records and more

July 28, 2020: Campaign finance reports: Incumbent leads fundraising in district attorney race; captain raises most money in race for sheriff

July 22, 2020: In forum, candidates for Douglas County sheriff, undersheriff address violence against Indigenous women, sexual harassment

July 19, 2020: 2020 Primary Voters Guide: Meet the candidates for Douglas County sheriff

July 18, 2020: In NAACP forum, Douglas County sheriff candidates give thoughts on drug activity, white supremacists, body cameras

July 10, 2020: In forum, candidates for Douglas County sheriff address systemic racism, issues affecting transgender people

June 18, 2020: Douglas County sheriff candidates voice range of opinions on jail expansion, including opposition

June 12, 2020: Douglas County Sheriff Ken McGovern to retire early; he says ‘it’s been fun for 39 years’

June 8, 2020: Douglas County sheriff candidates share views on public transparency, training against bias-based policing

May 29, 2020: Douglas County undersheriff withdraws from race for sheriff

April 21, 2020: Captain files to run for Douglas County Sheriff in 2020 election

Jan. 30, 2020: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office veteran files to run for office’s top job in 2020

Jan. 17, 2020: Undersheriff files to run for Douglas County sheriff in 2020 election

June 12, 2019: Douglas County sheriff won’t seek another term, plans to retire in 2020

Oct. 16, 2018: Lieutenant files to run for Douglas County sheriff in 2020


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.