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Sheriff's challengers prepare for high-profile political fight

February 3, 2014

Marion County voters will hear plenty about the Sheriff’s Office this election year, as two challengers to Sheriff John Layton prepare to attack his track record on everything from deputy conduct to budget management.

Republican Emmitt Carney received his party’s endorsement Saturday and plans to file his candidacy Monday.

Layton, 61, a Democrat elected in 2010, first faces a primary challenge from Mark Brown, an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department sergeant who oversees human resources.

“I think it’s going to be a half-million-dollar race on each side,” said Bryce Carpenter, executive director of the Marion County Republican Party and Carney’s campaign manager. Voters can expect to see network TV advertising for Carney, an African-American with a background in law enforcement. He retired from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 2011 and has no political experience.

Carney, 57, raised $45,165 last year, while Layton raised more than $200,000 and enters the campaign with nearly $318,000 in his war chest.

Carney kicked off his campaign with a statement that echoes Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s criticism of Layton as a poor budget manager whose spending takes away from IMPD.

“The current sheriff's budget continues to grow at the expense of new IMPD officers, and his department continues to make headlines for mismanagement and employee misconduct,” Carney said in a prepared statement. “As your next sheriff, I'll be committed to professionalism, accountability and being a better public safety partner.”

Brown, 49, who is also African-American, doesn’t have the backing of Democratic Party leaders or the money that comes with it, but he’s optimistic about his chances in the May 6 primary. Running against Layton in the 2010 primary, he took 38.5 percent of the vote.

“The sheriff now has a record to run against,” Brown said. “It’s not a particularly good record.”

Layton said his opponents don’t understand the job. He's spent a 40-year career with the Sheriff’s Office, which had patrol duties until a 2007 merger with IMPD, but now is responsible mainly for overseeing the county jails.

“It’s been said that a man cannot lead any further than he himself has been,” he said.

Much of his budget challenges stem from circumstances beyond the sheriff’s control, Layton said.

“The only problem we have with the budget is arrestees’ health care,” he said.

Layton doesn’t deny that his deputies have made headlines. Deputy David Carrico faced federal charges in 2012 of beating a handcuffed inmate, but the sheriff’s office led the investigation and pressed for those charges, Layton said.

“It’s how these problems are taken care of,” Layton said. “Not only have problems decreased but productivity has gone through the roof.”

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