Early challenger emerges in McDowell sheriff’s race

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Even though the election is three years away, a challenger for the office of McDowell County sheriff has already come forward. Joel Randall “Randy” Branton, 58, announced this week he is seeking to run as a Democratic candidate for sheriff in the 2022 election.

Even though the election is three years away, a challenger for the office of McDowell County sheriff has already come forward and filed initial paperwork.

Joel Randall “Randy” Branton, 58, announced this week he is seeking to run as a Democratic candidate for sheriff in the 2022 election. He said he is announcing his candidacy now because the incumbent Sheriff Ricky Buchanan is already holding fund-raising events.

“God willing and with your support, as sheriff of McDowell County, I look forward to taking the politics out of public safety,” Branton said in a prepared statement. “I plan on restoring transparency to law enforcement in McDowell County and intend to treat all citizens equally, regardless of race, political affiliation, religion, ethnicity or economic status. I expect McDowell County sheriff officers to exhibit trust through accountability and maintain good moral and ethical standings in the community, both on and off duty. I will strive to re-establish and maintain good relationships with our neighboring state, federal and local law enforcement agencies.”

Branton said he has a 28-year career in public service, 12 of which were spent as a road deputy with the sheriff’s office. He retired from the sheriff’s office in 2016 only to find himself working in law enforcement again. He is now employed with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as a police officer for Broughton Hospital.

“I do consider my public service a job, but a calling to which I credit and honor the death of my younger brother Robert Rex Branton, who was killed by a drunk driver on Jan. 1, 1972,” he said in his prepared statement. “I plan on running a clean campaign, free of frivolous scrutiny and meaningless political tactics that only divides our community greater.”

In his statement, Branton said he plans to increase the presence of deputies throughout the county without adding to the tax burden on residents.

“I wish to explore options, within the department, mobilizing sworn law enforcement officers from behind desk, inserting them in the community to improve relations and make McDowell County safer,” he said in his statement. “My intentions are not to dismantle the department, but restructure it in a way that will eliminate wasteful spending, allowing for more officer availability on the road. By placing more deputies on the road, I will take a more proactive approach to preventing crime, in turn improving the reactive measures by reducing response time.”

Branton stated he plans to create a civil division to serve civil processes. “The creation of this division removes this task from the already overwhelmed road deputy’s duties, allowing more availability to respond to and prevent crime,” he said in his statement.

Branton added he intends to partner with local, state and federal officers in the battle against the drug epidemic in McDowell. He wants to not only prosecute drug offenders but “offer a viable treatment option to allow some offenders to once again become productive citizens.”

Bob R. Haynes was the last Democrat to hold the office of sheriff and that was 25 years ago.

“I’ve been a registered Democrat all of my life and I have worked under two Republican sheriffs, Jackie Turner and Dudley Greene,” said Branton to The McDowell News. “I am a Democrat who believes in the Second Amendment. I am not a liberal Democrat.”

Branton is a native of McDowell and was raised in the Nebo community. He and his wife Jan live in the Glenwood area and have three children and six grandchildren. “I am a member of Glenwood Baptist Church and share the same core Christian values as the voters of McDowell County,” he said in his prepared statement.

“My intent is to have the best equipped, highest quality trained and technologically advanced department in western North Carolina,” he said in his prepared statement. “I do not claim to have all the answers but with your prayers and support, I accept the challenge and hope for the opportunity of making McDowell County a reputable and safe community as sheriff in 2022.”

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