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In the Democratic primary, two candidates face off for Blaine County sheriff

An aerial view of Blaine County
Rachel Cohen
Boise State Public Radio
The Big Wood River seen near Hailey in June 2022

Two candidates are facing off for the Democratic nomination for Blaine County sheriff in the May 21 primary election.

Sheriff Steve Harkins was first elected in 2016. He’s running for a third term against Morgan Ballis, a Hailey police officer.

The two will speak at a Q&A event in Hailey on Monday evening. Republican candidate Aaron Hughston, a former sheriff reserve deputy, declined the invite to give the Democrats the floor before the primary.

Three local nonprofit organizations focused on social services are hosting the event.

“We often work with some vulnerable populations where it’s really important to help build trust with local law enforcement," said Kristin McMahon, the communications director at The Hunger Coalition, which tackles food insecurity.

The other organizations, The Advocates and The Alliance, focus on domestic violence and immigration, respectively.

Flyer for Sheriff Forum
The Hunger Coalition

Some of the nonprofits and Sheriff Harkins have sparred in the past over the county’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. About a quarter of county residents identify as Hispanic or Latino.

On his candidate website, Harkins said one of his accomplishments is the sheriff's office Hispanic liaison team, which he said has built trust with the Spanish-speaking community.

As the county population and visitors grow, so has the demand on emergency services. In 2023, the sheriff's office responded to more then 19,000 calls for service.

Ballis' key platform issues include increasing interagency collaboration and creating a joint narcotics and child exploitation task force.

The candidate forum will be moderated by Mike McKenna, the executive director of the chamber of commerce, and will include free pizza, childcare and Spanish translation.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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