By the Numbers: Sheriff Race
Sheriff Race – August 4 General Election
Incumbent: Tommy Myers (elected 2018)
Challenger: Jackie Matheny Jr. (ran unopposed in Republican primary in May)
Will Myers be re-elected or will Warren County elect another Matheny as sheriff? We’ll find out next month. Tommy Myers emerged from a crowded field in 2018 to win the job, defeating a six-person field with just under 25 percent of the total vote. He made a big push down the stretch on election day, ultimately defeating Marc Martin by 72 votes after being in second place after early voting numbers were revealed.
It won’t be a multiple-choice question on this year’s ballot – only Myers and Jackie Matheny Jr. will be in the running this time. Matheny Jr. is looking to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was Warren County sheriff for six terms before retiring in 2018.
Editor’s note: Before I go in depth on the numbers and talking points around this election, I should note that I was heavily involved in campaigning during the 2018 race. My stepfather, John Morgan, was in the field and I helped him put out signs, connect with people on social media and everything else included in campaigning. I think it’s right to offer that as full disclosure – not that it really has any affect on my analysis in 2022.
BY THE NUMBERS
Unlike in 2018, when voters were split six ways and four different candidates received at least 1,000 votes (Myers, Martin, Rodney Whiles and Billy Joe Crouch), this year’s winner should conceivably be elected with a majority (It should be guaranteed that somebody gets at least 50.1 percent unless the margin is razor thin and there’s a large amount of write-ins). It will be interesting to see who can get 5,000 votes this year. It’s probably going to take that many to win.
Back in 2018, the sheriff race had 10,242 votes cast. If the turnout is the same this year, a majority would mean garnering 5,122 votes. That’s over double what Myers received (2,473 votes) while winning four years ago. On the flip side, Matheny Jr. got 2,781 complimentary votes in the 2022 Republican primary, where he was the only person on the ballot.
If you assume Myers will hold on to all his voters from 2018 and Matheny siphoned all his support in May from people who voted for other candidates last time, that means there are still potentially 4,988 votes out there for grabs. It would also mean – if Matheny draws all the same support in August that he did in May – the challenger would be going into the race with a narrow edge (308 votes separate his total from the primary and Myers’ winning total in 2018).
Everything points to this being potentially the tightest race of the year. Though it’s not always true, incumbents usually have the edge going into elections. Granted, that’s usually backed up by the person knowing they can draw a majority of voters their way because they've done it before --- Myers didn’t have to do that last time; He won a free-for-all while taking 9-of-20 districts on election day in 2018.
Myers will surely have his fair share of fans who may have had him as their second choice last time, only to see their first pick fall short (It’s interesting, though not totally shocking, that Martin and Whiles – who each topped 2,000 votes last time – didn’t re-enter the race this time). Myers would need only for one of those voting bases to fully come his way to get over 90 percent of the way to 5,000 votes.
Of course, Matheny Jr. can say the same thing. Adding either Martin or Whiles’ totals from 2018 to his primary total (assuming there isn’t any overlap in voters) would push him across the 5,000-vote plateau.
If Matheny Jr. wants advice on getting above that goal of 5,000 votes, he doesn’t have go far. Despite there being just 8,149 voters in 2014, Jackie Matheny Sr. collected 5,452 votes (66.9 percent). Matheny Sr. ran unopposed in 2010 and previously had a string of wins over former sheriffs in the early 2000s and 1990s (including beating former office holders Mason Black, Everett Pearsall and Kenny Taylor).
It's not Matheny Sr. running this time though. Myers vs. Matheny Jr. will be one of many hotly contested races on August 4.
Simmons Says --- Some extra thoughts on covering elections
After I posted the WCSA breakdown of the county executive race, the first feedback I got came from my favorite photographer, Geoff Griffin (or Painted Barn Media, if you only know him from his work). He read it and asked me why there was no analysis of job performance of the incumbent or writing about if the challenger was qualified. Both would generate solid debates and plenty of additional commentary – but that wasn’t really what I was going for when writing up the election.
Sure, I have my opinions on all these races and will obviously be voting in the general election, but right now I’m only trying to present the races is the best way I know how --- by what the numbers say and what seems to be on the mind of the public. Any further deep dive – specifically job performance and qualifications – I think would be me editorializing.
Without polling (pre- and post-election), I don’t know if I could judge Jimmy Haley’s job performance without it coming off as just my opinion. Sidenote: I love the idea of conducting job approval rating polls for elected officials in WC (and coaches too). Those graphs would be fascinating! I will not, however, conduct a poll on the WCSA’s approval rating – I’m just going to assume we are at 100 percent.
Likewise, picking through Bell’s qualifications are for the job would be interesting. I’ve always said there’s really one qualification for elected officials – be electable. After that, it’s going to turn into a popularity contest with some politicking coming in at some point. Maybe the more interesting part would be trying to pinpoint what the community feels are the qualifications for a good county executive – or sheriff, or D.A. and so on.
I was trying my best to not to devolve into CNN/Fox News analysis – which is basically picking a side and telling you how wrong the other side is. Instead, I wanted to break down each race and find out what it’s likely going to take for a candidate to get elected (and maybe examine some of the talking points I’ve heard over and over all spring and summer). Ever since I was young, I was a numbers guy – I think they always tell a story.
For the sheriff race, there weren’t as many overarching themes I wanted to expand on more. Obviously, Matheny Jr. running for the same job his dad held for over 20 years is cool note (would they be the first father-son combo to both be sheriff in WC?), while Myers overcoming the odds in 2018 to become the sheriff and getting a chance to extend his legacy and local impact is a big deal too (he would also be the first person to beat a Matheny in a Warren County sheriff race in seven tries if he wins next month).
Do either of those things really affect the race? Not really. I don’t really think people are going to flock to the poll and just blindly vote for Jackie just because of his last name anymore than I think people will support Tommy just because he won last time.
What makes this race fascinating to me is the true 50/50 nature of it when I ask people about who they are supporting. Over the last month, I feel like it’s been truly right down the middle – and my eyes tell me the same thing when I’m driving around and looking at yard signs. It may not be the race that finishes the closest on the final day (I’m sure there will be a county commissioner race that comes down to 5-10 votes - There always is), but it’s definitely one to me that the feels like you can not predict a favorite with any certainty right now.
For a sports guy just dipping his toe into political reporting, there’s nothing more fun than two heavyweights going into the center of the ring and not knowing who is going to land the knockout punch.