Lieutenant wins in Douglas County sheriff primary
photo by: Contributed Photo
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.
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More 2020 election coverage: Douglas County sheriff race
• 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
• Oct. 16, 2018: Lieutenant files to run for Douglas County sheriff in 2020