ECTOR COUNTY, TX (KWES) - Two candidates are vying to replace longtime Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson.
Inspector Mike Griffis, the sheriff's No. 3 in command, and Joe Commander, Chief Investigator at the Ector County District Attorney's Office, entered the race in December after Donaldson unexpectedly withdrew his bid for re-election and announced plans to retire.
Griffis emphasized the supervisory experience and "street cred" he gained during the more than 20 years he spent working his way up within the Sheriff's Office, while Commander highlighted the broad spectrum of civil, criminal, traffic and various other positions he held throughout his 34-year law enforcement career.
"I think I've worked just about every job there is to work in law enforcement," Commander said. "[It] has prepared me for this moment."
He launched a well-funded, but ultimately unsuccessful, campaign against Donaldson in 2012, election records show.
The 2016 race marks Griffis' first bid for public office.
"I've thought about [running for sheriff] for some time now," he said. "When the opportunity came about, I was honored [Donaldson] felt I was ready."
Donaldson publicly endorsed Griffis as his chosen successor and said he preferred to see an "internal candidate" take over.
"If an outsider gets elected, there are a number of people here [at the Sheriff's Office] who will leave," he explained in a previous interview.
However, Commander insisted "that is not true" and said Wednesday he would make every effort to minimize personnel changes if elected.
"A lot of people are saying different things," said Griffis. "I want a clean race... I just want to focus on what's important."
Both candidates listed drug trafficking, methamphetamine-related crimes and jail overcrowding as top priority issues.
The March 1 primary will decide the winner, as no Democratic candidates are running.