WENATCHEE — Call it savvy campaigning, an electorate ready for a change or beginner’s luck, but Chelan County sheriff candidate Brian Burnett swept Tuesday’s primary vote, beating incumbent Mike Harum by a decisive 34 percent of the vote.
Burnett and Harum will advance to the general election Nov. 2. The third contender, Mike Hartnett was eliminated, but said he favors Burnett in November.
“We’re pretty excited,” Burnett, 43, said by phone Tuesday evening minutes after learning the election results.
“I never really knew what grassroots meant until I experienced it. So many people came on board believing in positive change in the sheriff’s office. It’s really humbling.”
Burnett captured 8,127 votes or nearly 58 percent of the total.
Harum finished second with 3,320 votes for nearly 24 percent, and Hartnett finished a close third with 2,635 votes or nearly 19 percent of the total.
The 52-year-old Harum, who is running for his third term as sheriff, admitted to being surprised by the result.
“It’s a wake-up call,” he said by phone.
“The citizens have voted. They saw something in the other candidate that they’re not seeing in me.
“I need to do a better job getting the word out. We’ll step it up in all the areas of campaigning.”
Hartnett, 53, expressed disappointment, but satisfaction with his campaign style.
“I feel I ran the campaign I wanted to run,” he said by phone.
Referring to a political squabbling among Harum and Burnett over federal Hatch Act regulations, Hartnett, a Democrat, added, “I didn’t want to get involved in the things the two Republican candidates were involved in. I wanted to stay clear of that to the best of my ability. I wish the other two well. May the best man win.”
Hartnett said he’d favor Burnett in the November elections, but hopes the candidate with less than a decade of law-enforcement experience surrounds himself with an experienced command staff.
“Sometimes, experience counts for something,” said the 20-plus year sheriff’s office veteran.
Burnett blanketed the county with campaign signs and racked up a list of endorsements from local law-enforcement, including the Chelan County Deputy Sheriff’s Association and Wenatchee Police Guild.
“Early on, we met with a campaign strategist. He said the biggest thing was name recognition. When you look at the public disclosure … the in-kind contributions, even business owners got motivated,” Burnett said.
Fredi Simpson, Chelan County Republican chairwoman, said Burnett’s campaign visibility was a big part of his success.
“I know that Mike (Harum) hasn’t done any campaigning, so to speak. Burnett’s signs are everywhere, and people are ready for change,” she said.
“If Sheriff Harum is going to win, he’s going to have to start doing some serious campaigning.”
She added, “Burnett has done a brilliant job of campaigning. You can’t take anything away from him. For a new kid on the block, he’s done a great job.”
That doesn’t mean he plans to let up.
“We stay on our game plan,” Burnett said. “The last thing we ever want to do is go out cocky. That’s not what we’re about. Stay the course.”
Harum said he recognizes he has a job ahead of him.
“We’ll step it up in all areas of campaigning,” he said.
“I think once people realize what I’ve done by representing them the past eight years — once I get the word out — they’ll understand that I’m the right choice for sheriff.”
Christine Pratt: 665-1173