Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel
A sign supporting Oklahoma County Sheriff hangs on the fence at Vineyard Fruit & Vegetable Co. (William W. Savage III)

To conclude a contentious election for Oklahoma County sheriff, incumbent John Whetsel defeated challenger and Rep. Mike Christian (R-OKC) by a small margin Tuesday night.

County results show Whetsel pulling 51.8 percent of 270,042 total votes.

The results cap a sheriff race that has been weirder than most.

Whetsel narrowly avoided suspension last week while county officials and the public continue to process a damning audit of his office and the jail he oversees.

Meanwhile, Christian (R-OKC) had been dogged by his own sordid past, including reprimands as an Oklahoma State Trooper and controversial workers’ compensation cases. He was also connected to the political bribery scandal that sent former Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) to jail.

Throughout the race, numerous people told NonDoc off-the-record stories about either the condition of the Oklahoma County Jail or the condition of Mike Christian, and many more compared the Whetsel vs. Christian matchup to that at the top of 2016’s ballot. Voters, many said, were choosing between “the lesser of two evils.”

Neither candidate, it seemed, was particularly well-liked.

But Tuesday’s election results will bring additional focus to the follies of Whetsel.

A former Choctaw chief of police, Whetsel was first elected Oklahoma County sheriff in 1996. He has campaigned on the topic of reduced crime in rural parts of Oklahoma County, and he has given extra attention to the issue of road safety after his former wife was killed in an accident involving an Oklahoma Highway Patrolman who was chasing a suspect.

Jail an albatross for Oklahoma County sheriff

Even before Tuesday’s election results, it was clear the condition of the Oklahoma County Jail would loom over the head of whichever man won.

Jail deaths — including nine from Jan. 1 to July 3, according to — and overcrowding reports have drawn outcry from advocacy groups, citizens and other politicians. The jail has also seen the Oklahoma Department of Corrections pull its contract and stop sending inmates there.

The Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners is scheduled to reconsider possible action against Whetsel either Wednesday or the following Wednesday at its regularly scheduled meetings.


sheriff debate

Okla. County Sheriff debate: ‘Who the hell does he think he is? Wyatt Earp?’ by William W. Savage III