Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott won Tuesday's Democratic primary election, putting him on the November ballot in his quest for a second term.
"I'm super-proud of my campaign, my team and the level of support I've had as sheriff," McDermott said Tuesday night, adding that he hopes the community has focused on his positive message of accomplishments rather than personal disagreements.
The primary election was a repeat of four years ago, when McDermott, then a detective sergeant in the department, defeated then-Undersheriff Clark.
After losing the 2014 primary, Clark mounted a write-in campaign against McDermott in the general election. That year, just over 36 percent of voters picked a write-in candidate in the sheriff’s race.
Clark retired from the department shortly after McDermott took office, and the pair have had a contentious relationship since.
In public appearances and interviews during his primary campaign, McDermott highlighted the accomplishments of his office over the past four years, including the commission of the jail diversion master plan to reduce overcrowding, and the reinstatement of the K9 and school resource officer programs.
Clark’s campaign revolved around his criticisms of the way McDermott has run the sheriff’s office, in particular citing what he views as excessive overtime by captains in the office and a lack of transparency by McDermott relating to deputy misconduct and disciplinary cases.
The sheriff told the Missoulian last month that if re-elected to a second four-year term, his priorities would be continuing to roll out the jail diversion master plan’s recommendations, as well as have more focus on school safety. Last week, he asked that the Missoula County Commissioners fund a second school resource officer in next year’s budget.
Clark did not return a request for comment on Tuesday night.
McDermott will be up against Independent candidate Travis Wafstet, a detective in the sheriff’s office who has been a deputy since 2013, in November’s general election.
Wafstet is also the assistant fire chief for the East Missoula Rural Fire District, and before becoming a deputy spent five years as a 911 dispatcher. He said he decided to enter the sheriff’s race because he sees a problem with its integrity and honor under McDermott.
“This is exactly what I expected,” Wafstet said. “I wouldn’t have put my name in the hat if I hadn’t expected a challenge.”