Cecil County Sheriff Barry A. Janney would seek a fourth term in the 2014 election, only if a “qualified candidate” doesn’t emerge to replace him, he said Thursday.
Meanwhile, Chris Sutton said he plans to make another try at sheriff ― although, unlike his last two bids, he would run this time as a Republican, the same political party as Janney.
Sutton, 43, who joined the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office in 1993 and now holds the rank of corporal, confirmed Thursday that he changed his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in December.
So it would appear that the race for sheriff is heating up, although candidates cannot officially file until April 9 and the elections are more than a year away.
Sutton switched parties because, according to him, his views jibe more with those typically held by Republicans, not by Democrats.
“My personal beliefs have always leaned more toward a conservative Democrat. My views are not liberal,” Sutton said.
The GOP better represents his personal political views, according to Sutton, who emphasized, “I’m not a radical Republican. I’m more middle of the road.”
As an example of why he switched parties, Sutton referred to his recent high-profile stance against House Bill 294, which calls for tougher and more government regulations for people wanting to own firearms.
“It’s not fair to say all Democrats support the bill, but it is fair to say that most of them do,” Sutton said.
Sutton has expressed his position against the proposed state law at two public rallies, one on March 1 in Annapolis and the other last week in Rising Sun.
During the most recent protest, Sutton held a sign proclaiming, “This Police Officer is Against House Bill 294.”
Along those lines, Sutton pointed to his opposition to House Bill 295, which calls for repealing Maryland’s death penalty.
“I’m for the death penalty,” Sutton said.
Sutton acknowledged that some Cecil County voters might suspect that he changed parties as a political strategy, as he unofficially prepares for his third election bid for Sheriff.
Sutton’s aspirations to be sheriff had nothing to do with him switching parties, however, he said.
“At that time, I hadn’t even decided if was going to run for sheriff again,” Sutton said, referring to when he switched. “I did this for personal reasons, to stay true to my political beliefs.”
“There’s probably going to be some people who will be upset with me and there will be some who understand and support my decision. At the end of the day, I’m just being me. I have to stay true to myself and, if I believe in something, I take a stand.”
As for Janney, who defeated Sutton and other challengers in 2006 and again in 2010, his decision to run will depend on the caliber of candidates seeking to be the new sheriff, he said.
“I am totally undecided right now. I want to make sure there is a qualified candidate who will be able to continue moving this agency forward,” Janney said.
If he feels that no one in the field of candidates would be able or would be inclined to continue the work his administration started more than 12 years ago, Janney would run for sheriff again, he added.
“I would reconsider. I would put my name in and run for sheriff,” Janney said, referring to that scenario.
If Janney runs again, he would now face Sutton in the primary election. In the last two elections, they competed in the general election.
Janney acknowledged Thursday that, on the eve of his most recent election victory nearly two and a half years ago, he publicly remarked that he wouldn’t seek a fourth term.
“My political days are coming to an end. This will be my last four years as sheriff, and I plan to work very hard and be the very best sheriff I can be,” Janney told the Cecil Whig at that time.
Janney made that comment on Nov. 2, 2010, after learning that he had beaten Sutton, with the incumbent sheriff garnering 15,529 votes (52.4 percent) while Sutton received 14,020 votes (47.3 percent).
Janney explained Thursday that he had made that statement at the end of a long, hard-fought and successful campaign.
“I was exhausted and I said, ‘That’s it; I’m done running,” Janney said.