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Beleaguered candidate turns Democrat

Don’t count Jay Wallace out of the run for Island County Sheriff.

He’s suffered setbacks, to say the least. Since declaring his candidacy last year, he was fired from his job as a sheriff’s deputy, is being investigated for criminal conduct by the state Attorney General’s Office, was rejected by the Island County Republican Party and suffered a minor heart attack.

But last Friday, he again filed his candidate registration with the Public Disclosure Commission, this time as a Democrat.

The bold moves means that Wallace is guaranteed to make it through to the November election, unless another Democratic candidate for sheriff pops up and beats him in the primary.

Previously, Wallace was one of four men who were running for sheriff as Republicans. With only Republicans running, that means only the Republicans who vote in the primary would have picked the next sheriff.

Then at the Island County Republican convention, Mark Brown, William “De” Dennis and Lenny Marlborough received enough votes from delegates to qualify as Republican candidates for sheriff. Wallace, however, received only a single vote and was not deemed “qualified” to be a Republican candidate.

On the other hand, the Island County Democratic Party doesn’t have a process to qualify candidates, which means just about anyone can run as a Democratic candidate.

In fact, the county’s Democratic leadership wasn’t even aware that Wallace is running as a Democrat.

“He certainly isn’t running as an endorsed candidate,” said Grethe Cammermeyer, the chair of the Island County Democratic Party’s Central Committee. “He certainly hasn’t been in contact with us.”

Cammermeyer admitted that she’s suspicious of Wallace’s sudden change in party affiliation.

“The fact that he was rejected by the Republicans is fairly significant,” she said. “If he’s not good enough for the Republicans to be a candidate, why is he good enough to be a Democrat?”

Wallace’s wife said he is out of town for a few days and couldn’t comment immediately.

Cammermeyer said the party leadership will decide which candidate to endorse after the filing period is over. The filing week is July 24 through July 28.

Cammermeyer said she’s not aware of any other Democratic candidates for sheriff. She is one of many people who feels that the position of sheriff — or prosecutor or coroner, for that matter — should not be partisan.

According to the Public Disclosure Commission, the three Republican candidates, especially Dennis and Marlborough, are already enjoying bipartisan contributions from the Whidbey community.

Jo Balda of Oak Harbor was the treasurer for Wallace’s campaign, and as a Republican delegate, cast the only vote for him at the convention. But she said Tuesday that she’s no longer part of his campaign.

“I cannot vote for a Democrat,” she said, adding that she could not speculate on why Wallace changed parties.

Trouble started for Wallace on the night of Feb. 7. Sheriff Mike Hawley, a Republican who’s not running for reelection, claimed Wallace shirked his duty by not adequately responding to 911 calls from a woman who was allegedly beaten, sexually assaulted and held against her will at a Freeland home. He violated policy by not making physical contact with the caller and not responding at all to the second call, Hawley claimed.

Moreover, Wallace was dishonest in his written statements about the incident, a internal investigation states.

After the internal investigation, Hawley fired Wallace. But Wallace claimed he did nothing wrong and that Hawley was politically motivated. Island County Sheriff’s Guild filed a grievance in support of Wallace.

The Oak Harbor Police also investigated Wallace for possible criminal charges based on the accusation that Wallace committed perjury in his report on the incident. The police report was forwarded to the state Attorney General.

Deputy Attorney General Scott Marlow said he hasn’t made a decision as to whether he’ll charge Wallace. He said further investigation is required.

After he was fired, Wallace was hospitalized when he suffered a minor heart attack, Balda announced at a forum in Oak Harbor.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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