Money was not the deciding factor in the sheriff race

Published 12:09 am Thursday, May 19, 2022

SALISBURY — The biggest spender did not win Tuesday’s Republican sheriff primary and one of the lowest spenders came in second.

The election that determined the likely next leader of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office was claimed by sheriff’s office detective and Rowan-Salisbury Schools board member Travis Allen, securing 32.78% of the vote and avoiding a runoff with the large field of republican candidates.

The strongest candidates in the election were those with the most name recognition. Allen was the second-biggest campaign spender and second-place candidate Mike Caskey captured 22.22% of the vote but was the third-largest spender by a wide margin.

Allen raised $57,891 and Caskey raised $38,136. School resource officer Tommie Cato was the biggest spender, raising $73,921 and spending down to $1,131 on hand as of April 30 according to campaign finance reports. Cato finished in third with 16.67% of the vote.

Allen said he spent down to $774 as of April 30 and Caskey was down to $247.

Allen said his campaign “threw every dime we had” at the election to avoid a runoff and credited his success to a large door-knocking campaign in the southern part of the county. He said he knocked on 3,000 doors of registered Republican voters himself.

Caskey is a Rowan County commissioner and Charlotte police officer from the southern part of the county. Allen identified that as the area he needed to focus his campaign.

Cato spent the most and $43,000 of his contributions were from loans.

“It’s something I wanted to do so I was willing to spend that money,” Cato said. “I’m still just thankful.”

Cato said he is thankful for all the people who donated to hep the campaign and said he will be fine in the aftermath. Allen indicated he wants to work with his competitors for the job from within the sheriff’s office.

“It’s been a very clean campaign and none of us have really gotten dirty with each other,” Allen said.

He said candidates spoke to each other personally and avoided public conflicts.

Carlton Killian easily won the Democratic primary against Simon Brown, capturing 61.23% of the vote. Killian is a retired master state trooper who provides currently provides private security at the Social Security office in Salisbury.

“It was a nice, pleasant campaign and everyone got along,” Killian said.

Killian recognized a Democrat has not held the sheriff post for more than 20 years. He said he was first hired as a part time deputy with the office by the last Democratic sheriff.

“The thing is, it’s been red for a long time but a lot of that is due to people not coming out to vote,” Killian said. “It seems like the Republicans come out.”

Republicans had several notable races with no Democratic challengers on Tuesday’s ballot, including a choice between incumbent District Attorney Brandy Cook and challenger Paxton Butler as well as a large field of Republicans running for county commissioner. All the incumbents won those races.

The Republican sheriff primary collected 15,504 votes while the Democratic primary only took in 3,600. Allen alone received 5,082 votes.

“Rowan County is full of all types and we have to reach out to everybody,” Killian said.

He noted turnout is highest for presidential election years, but local offices like the sheriff affect day-to-day life in a community more.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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