ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - As the race for St. Tammany Parish Sheriff heats up, both candidates are in an all-out sprint with just three weeks left to go before the Nov. 21 election.
Netting 45 percent of the vote on October's ballot, incumbent Sheriff Jack Strain hopes voters will continue to see him as the best man for the job, but his opponent, Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith, thinks Strain's nearly two decades in office is good reason for a fresh start.
"When you've been in office as long as he has, you become complacent, you become distant from the people who elected you 20 years ago. He's a five-term sheriff, he wants a sixth term, that's where I come in, I want to change things for the better, take that department to the next level and make it better and keep our people here safe and even safer," Smith said.
But Strain sees his years as the parish's top law enforcement officer as another notch in the belt that will convince voters to keep him.
"I'm waiting for my opponent to define change, it's easy to say change and that's all he's done in nine months of campaigning, but at some point he's going to have to describe change. I can clearly point to our residents and show them our record, solid and successful," Strain said.
Strain thinks his record alone should be enough to sway voters at the ballot box, but Smith thinks with 55 percent voting against the incumbent, it will be enough to take the win, even if the biggest obstacle is getting voters to the polls.
"Normally yeah, you see a runoff with a poor turnout," Smith said. "But if we can get to those folks who are really serious about positive change for St. Tammany Parish, I think we can really win this thing."
Still, Strain hopes more people heading to the polls will keep him in office.
"I'm hopeful that the more we talk about it, and it's been my experience in St. Tammany in a runoff our residents generally start paying better attention and they start informing themselves a lot more and we have an incredible story to tell - 19 years of success and a record that's allowed our residents to have a quality of life that's second to none," Strain said.
Both candidates are asking residents to vote early, starting this Saturday, Nov. 7.