The challenger running to become the next Lewis & Clark County Sheriff/Coroner introduced himself to voters Thursday at an event in Helena.
Jay Nelson, a sergeant with the Montana Highway Patrol, held a meet-and-greet event at the Montana State Capitol. It was one of his first major campaign events leading into election season.
Nelson is running as a Republican candidate against incumbent Sheriff Leo Dutton, a Democrat who has been in office since 2008. The winner in November’s election will be the county’s first consolidated sheriff-coroner. Lewis and Clark County commissioners voted last year to combine the two offices.
Nelson said his campaign will focus on providing leadership, ensuring transparency and engaging the sheriff’s and coroner’s offices with the community. He said he’s heard from a number of voters concerned about the crime rate in Lewis and Clark County, particularly drug-related crime.
“The amount of heroin, the pounds of drugs – not ounces, not grams, pounds – that are coming into our county, that’s scary,” he said. “It’s scary as a parent, it’s scary as a husband, and it’s scary as a law enforcement officer, and we need to have a plan to combat that.”
He suggested tougher enforcement will be needed to address crime, and said he wants the sheriff’s office to take another look at whether they’re using their deputies effectively.
“Leadership is about bringing those around you up to a higher level, so jointly, as an agency, we can shine and we can address things like the crime rate,” he said.
Nelson is the son of Mickey Nelson, who served as county coroner for 42 years, until his death in 2016.
- Reported by Jonathan Ambarian