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Our View: Clean up county sheriff's race

Published: Friday, July 19, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 19, 2013 9:22 a.m. CDT

We’re still eight months away from the primary for McHenry County sheriff, and the mud already is slinging in the campaign to replace retiring Sheriff Keith Nygren.

Calls for a special prosecutor to investigate a now debunked claim that one candidate interfered in a federal drug probe. Accusations of lax oversight in a previous position against another candidate. Middle-finger accusations flying at a public parade. An apparent campaign law violation.

All this and more, and it’s not even Labor Day yet.

If things continue down this road, this race between announced candidates Andy Zinke and Bill Prim on the Republican side and independent Jim Harrison will make the 2010 run for sheriff look tame by comparison.

You remember that one.

Fired sheriff deputy Zane Seipler ran against his former boss, Nygren, in the Republican primary. Lawsuits over Seipler’s reinstatement in the middle of the campaign. Calls for special prosecutors.

After Nygren easily won the primary, Democrat Mike Mahon and independent blogger Gus Philpott tried to paint him as an out-of-touch bully who spent more time in his vacation homes in Florida and Wisconsin than in running the department.

Nygren won the general election handily.

The mudslinging didn’t work four years ago. Our hunch is it won’t this time, either.

We want a healthy debate about who the next sheriff should be. Sometimes, that’s going to involve criticism of each of the candidates’ record.

But it shouldn’t get personal. Voters see through that. Let’s keep it clean – mostly, anyway.

And, of course, keep it legal. No campaigning on the public’s time or dime. Seems like county taxpayers have paid enough for allegations about that fairly recently.

Zinke, as undersheriff the current second-in-command to Nygren, and Prim, who spent 27 years with the Des Plaines Police Department and lives in Cary, square off in the March 18 primary. Harrison, a Woodstock-based attorney specializing in employment law and former sheriff’s deputy, faces the winner in the Nov. 4 general election.

Perhaps other candidates will join the race in the meantime.

Let’s have a clean but passionate discussion about who our next sheriff should be.

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