With no Democrat having filed, the June 30 Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office primary is for all the marbles in one of central Oklahoma’s most populous counties.
The race will pit incumbent Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth against a pair of fellow Republicans, Jeff Griffith and Ben Henderson, who have had lengthy careers in law enforcement. Both opponents say the crime rate in the county is too high and that the department needs to improve its relationship with other law enforcement agencies.
Booth, who was first elected in 2009, last went before voters in 2016. In that race he won about 75 percent of the vote.
All three candidates participated in a June 18 forum for Pottawatomie County and Shawnee-area elections. The portion for the Pottawatomie County Sheriff candidates can be viewed here.
Pottawatomie County at a glance
2019 crime: four homicides; 42 rapes; 445 felony assaults; 651 breaking and enterings (Source: OSBI)
Median income: $47,683 median household income and $23,155 per capita income in 2018. (Source: census.gov)
Demographics: 75 percent white; 13 percent Native American; 5 percent Latino; 3 percent African American;
Municipalities: Shawnee, McLoud, Tecumseh, Wanette, Earlsboro
Sheriff Mike Booth (R, incumbent)
Occupation: Incumbent Pottawatomie County Sheriff
Platform: Booth has a long history with the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office, having joined as a reserve in 1986. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1974 through 2002, and he was recalled for active duty following 9/11. During that time, he served with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Italy. Booth also spent a decade as an investigator for the Pottawatomie County District Attorney’s Office.
Booth supports the Second Amendment. In March, he declared the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary City in opposition to red flag laws. Earlier this year, Booth helped create a task force with Oklahoma and Lincoln County sheriffs to tackle property crime. He said in February the task force had already recovered $150,000 in stolen property.
Jeff Griffith (R)
Occupation: Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission agent
Platform: Griffith has a 40-year history in law enforcement. He served in the Shawnee Police Department and Oklahoma Highway Patrol 32 years, working as the commander for OHP’s Troop A, which covers seven counties in central Oklahoma.
In his campaign announcement, Griffith said he is running because of the county’s high crime rate, which he says on his website is among the highest in the state. He also said the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office needs to build better relationships with tribal and city police forces in the county. Griffith has recorded a series of videos on his Facebook page, and he notes in a post that he is an Army veteran, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and a graduate of the national FBI academy.
Ben Henderson (R)
Occupation: Investigator at Pottawatomie County District Attorney’s Office
Platform: Henderson has 18 years in law enforcement, including time as a reserve deputy, lake ranger and police officer. In a YouTube video, Henderson says he is running because he believes the county’s crime rate is too high and that the department needs modernization and more advanced training techniques.
Henderson also says the department needs to improve relationships with other law enforcement agencies in order to reduce crime in the county, something he said is lacking right now.