Four days after retiring from the Maryland State Police, Jeff Gahler has staked out a new job for himself: frontrunner.
Gahler announced his candidacy in an e-mailed letter just before midnight Tuesday, saying he hoped to revive what he called “a true grass roots effort,” one which fell 3,086 votes short of unseating incumbent Democrat Sheriff Jesse Bane.
“Since the 2010 campaign, I have continued to meet with Harford County citizens and business leaders and have listened as many expressed their displeasure with the current sheriff and his focus on uninterrupted political posturing,” Gahler wrote in his letter. “I can assure you that my intentions are not rooted in political gain, but rather a passionate and sustained commitment to the safety of our families and communities.”
In the 2010 election, Gahler was one of four Republican candidates who challenged Bane, facing Steven Bodway, Jack Meckley, and Roger Sheets in the GOP primary. Gahler prevailed over Bodway by just 64 votes following a final canvassing of votes days after the election.
This time around, Gahler told The Dagger that both Bodway and Sheets had thrown their full support behind him, and said that Meckley’s plans were unclear.
“I think, yes, [the candidacy announcement] establishes me as the frontrunner on the Republican side,” he said. “I think we all learned last time that there’s strength in unity. I would hope that anyone else thinking of running understands that—it likely cost us the office of sheriff last time.”
Another change will be the much longer time between the primary election and the general election. In 2014, the primary election is scheduled for June 24, giving the two nominees a full five months to trade blows before the Nov. 4 general election.
“He [Bane] only had to run against me as the [Republican] candidate for five weeks last time,” Gahler said. “This time he’ll have to run against me for five months.”
The change to the earlier primary date was signed into law last year to allow the state enough time to print and send ballots to overseas voters, in compliance with federal law.
Gahler dismissed the suggestion that the longer election season would prove a hindrance to Bane, who would have to campaign while fulfilling his obligations as sheriff, saying Bane’s position as an incumbent should allow him to handle both roles “if the incumbent is doing what he needs to be doing.”
Though Gahler’s announcement comes well before any official filing deadline for the election, he said preparations for his 2010 run took nearly two and a half years. With just over two years until the 2014 primary election, “I know some people think this is early, I see it as late,” he said.
Gahler took the first shots at Bane earlier this year, calling into question personnel statistics Bane presented at a series of town hall meetings. Bane defended the numbers and invited Gahler to meet to discuss the issue, an invitation Gahler declined.
A retiree after nearly 28 years in the Maryland State Police, Gahler said he planned to distribute further releases and information in the near future calling into question Bane’s performance as sheriff.
“I think it split my focus last time, working full-time and running for office,” Gahler said. “Not that it was a distraction, but maybe it hindered our success.”
From Jeff Gahler:
In 2014, voters will have the opportunity to point Harford County law enforcement in the right direction. It is with great pride that I formally announce my intention to seek the Office of Harford County Sheriff.
2010 saw the Gahler for Sheriff Campaign rise from a true grass roots effort to that of what some have called one of the most impressive local campaign efforts in memory. Much of this credit goes to the Republican candidates for Sheriff who unified after the 2010 Primary and set the example for all elected officials or individuals seeking public office – the needs of our citizens come first! Although we did not achieve our goal during the 2010 election year, I would not have traded the experience of meeting and listening to so many concerned Harford County residents and business owners or challenging the status quo for anything and I look forward to expanding these efforts in the future.
Since the 2010 campaign, I have continued to meet with Harford County citizens and business leaders and have listened as many expressed their displeasure with the current sheriff and his focus on uninterrupted political posturing. I can assure you that my intentions are not rooted in political gain, but rather a passionate and sustained commitment to the safety of our families and communities.
Today, the Gahler for Sheriff Team stands ready to make our communities a safer place for each of us that calls Harford County home. As a long time Harford County resident, as a husband, and as the father of two daughters in the public school system, I have a truly vested interest in improving public safety for each and every Harford County family. As a graduate of North Harford High School, Harford Community College, the Johns Hopkins University, and as a commissioned officer and commander within the Maryland State Police, I have the education, training, experience, dedication, commitment and expertise to accomplish the goals of reducing crime and improving public safety in Harford County.
After nearly 28 years of honorably serving the citizens of this State and, in particular, the citizens of Harford County, I look forward to continuing to serve as your next Sheriff. Protecting our friends and families has been humbling and remains a top priority for me as we move toward 2014.
Thank you for your past and continued support and commitment to the safety and security of our communities. Please be sure to visit the Gahler for Sheriff website (www.gahlerforsheriff.com) often for breaking news and events.
Jeffrey R. Gahler
2014 Republican Candidate for Harford County Sheriff