Starting a Sheriff Election Campaign? What Do You Need To Know?

police car on patrol

In the United States, a sheriff is typically the chief of law enforcement for a county. They are constitutional officers, meaning they are elected into office by popular vote.

Specific duties differ from state to state. The duties of a county sheriff tend to be different than those of a police chief. For example, they may not be responsible for street or patrol-level law enforcement.

Sheriffs and their deputies are responsible for all law enforcement within their jurisdiction. They will have arrest powers in all cities, towns, and villages located within their county.

The agency headed up is usually called a sheriff’s department or sheriff’s office. Law enforcement officers working for an office are deputized and are typically referred to as a deputy sheriff. In some states a sheriff may just be an elected civilian official lacking police powers who just oversees the department.

Of the 50 U.S. states, only 48 actually have people who serve as sheriffs. Only Alaska (which has no counties), Connecticut (which has state marshals) and Hawaii (just Deputy Shrf. that serve in the Hawaii Department of Public Safety) do not employ sheriffs.

Of all local elections, choosing a sheriff is the one time where voters have direct influence over law enforcement policies.

So why would someone run for sheriff?

voter casting a ballotAs mentioned above, a sheriff is the highest ranking law enforcement officer in the county. They don’t have to answer to a board of supervisors or even a county administrator. The job provides a decent salary, and it offers control of a substantial department operating budget.

The job is full-time, though you may need to be on call and work overtime hours.

Because the elected term is four to six years – with the potential for re-election – it is a stable job with a lot of responsibility.

The position can also serve as a stepping stone for individuals who are looking to build their political base and seek higher office in the future.

Sometimes, the election of a sheriff or constable is often decided by just a few votes. Election campaigns may have low voter turnout. This is especially true when county elections occurs on a date that does not match general Election Day.

Because of this, the winner often is the candidate who can employ a strategy that gets the most voters to the polls.

So how do you get more people out to vote?

Traditional advertising techniques, such as yard signs, posters and newspaper letter writing campaigns still work well. However in recent years, digital advertising has become very popular for political candidates.

Creating a campaign website and effectively using social media are important ways that candidates communicate with the electorate.

Consider reaching out through:

  • Social media advertising. You can target people by location, age and other demographic data to help inform voters and increase your visibility.
  • An email list will allow you to keep in touch throughout the campaign. It is less expensive than direct mail and can be sent more often.
  • Pay Per Click ads can be used to reach people searching for you or for important local issues.
  • IP Targeting can allow you to to reach physical household addresses digitally.

The election process can be complicated. Everyone has a different mix of resources and abilities. The key is to create and execute a plan to win.

Before you decide to run for office, you should be sure that you are prepared to handle the stresses of a an election campaign – and are capable of serving if elected.

More ideas and resources:

How to Run Your Campaign | Election Requirements