Detective Sgt. T.J. McDermott is next in line to head the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department in 2015 – ending one of the most contentious sheriff’s races in recent history.
McDermott swept Tuesday’s balloting with 6,483 votes, defeating a pair of opponents, Undersheriff Josh Clark and Seeley Lake Deputy Bob Parcell.
“Moving forward, I just want to sit down with everybody and work with them and get everybody together and working on the same page so we can get back to doing what we do best,” McDermott said at the Depot Tuesday night.
About 50 supporters gathered with McDermott to await for the outcome of the election – and then to celebrate his victory. The absentee ballot count came in shortly after 8 p.m. and gave McDermott about a 2,000 vote lead over Clark, who had 2,639 votes. Parcel trailed at 1,585.
In the end, with all 52 precincts reporting, McDermott received 51.6 percent of the vote. Clark received 30.6 percent of the votes with 3,845 ballots cast in his favor. Parcell trailed with 2,225 votes, or 17.7 percent.
“I really hope to provide a sheriff’s office that we can be proud of and we can trust to do a good job serving the community that we live in,” McDermott said after thanking his supporters, which included many prominent local Democrats.
Since all three candidates filed as Democrats, Tuesday’s results dictate the next sheriff of Missoula County. There is no Republican candidate.
In the months leading up to the primary, Missoula County Democrats disagreed with the other candidates’ assertion that they were Democrats and changed their bylaws to endorse McDermott, claiming he was the only legitimate Democrat.
Clark, who was at home Tuesday night, didn’t return a request for comment from the Missoulian. Parcell, who was at home in Seeley Lake, spoke to the Missoulian on the phone, saying that it “breaks his heart” that McDermott won.
“Congratulations to Missoula County,” Parcell said. “You now have the best sheriff that money, endorsements, influences, and political intrigue can buy.”
“At this time, I am announcing my candidacy for sheriff in the 2018 election, and now for the sake of the citizens let’s get down to business,” he added. Next election, Parcell said he wouldn’t file as a Democrat.
McDermott dwarfed his opponents in campaign spending and fundraising. According to the campaign finance reports filed several weeks before the election, McDermott raised nearly $58,000 and loaned himself $40,000. Parcell spent less than $1000 – mostly of his own money. Clark raised $21,941 and loaned himself around $12,000 to fund his campaign.
Deputy Jason Johnson, McDermott’s future undersheriff, said Tuesday they wouldn’t attempt to contact Clark Tuesday night out of respect and because “of the nature of the race.”
“It’s got to be tough for him, too,” Johnson said. ” He spent quite a bit of his own money. He did the best he could and it didn’t work out for him. I am the type of person that this is over – there doesn’t need be any grudges held.”