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Waller County Sheriff's Race: Grenades & Gun-Toting Campaign Managers

There's a pretty interesting election going on for boss of the sheriff's department in Waller County, a mostly rural area on the western border of Harris County. The elected candidate will be the first new sheriff in two decades, because long-time sheriff Randy Smith is retiring. The candidates are:

- Jeron Barnett, a former Harris County deputy who works for the Katy Police Department. He was named the department's 2008 Crime Prevention Officer of the Year. If elected, Barnett will be the first black sheriff in Waller County.

- R. Glen Smith, a former police chief in Hempstead, fired earlier this year after a series of unfortunate events, including an always-dangerous grenade prank that resulted in an officer's foot being blown off. Two months after the firing, he was hired by the Waller County Sheriff's Department and secured the Republican nomination for sheriff.

Maybe race isn't an issue these days, but considering a white cemetery/black cemetery debate in Waller County this summer, maybe it is. Barnett's father thinks so.

"I believe there will be some voter irregularities in this campaign," Donald Barnett, who is also serving as his son's campaign manager, tells Hair Balls. "This is the worst county that I have ever been to in my life, from Alabama to Wyoming."

According to Donald, voter turn out for Jeron has been good so far, helped by the student population from Prairie View A&M, which recently resolved a voter rights lawsuit with Waller County. There have been a few vandalized Barnett campaign signs, but other than that, no real problems.

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"[Racism] has not been an issue in my presence, because I carry a 44-40 [pistol] or a double-barrel shotgun," Donald says. "I'm not going to let anybody bother me."

Smith believes that his firing in Hempstead was not warranted, and he says the mayor had suggested that no action be taken by the city council. Race is a non-issue, Smith says, in the sheriff's campaign.

"Most people are decent, conscientious people that are going to vote they think is the best person to be sheriff," he says. "Both of us are in it to make a difference in the county."

-- Paul Knight

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