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Ballots in Cowlitz County went out at the end of last week, and many have already received theirs in the mail. Others should be receiving them within the next few days. There is certainly no shortage of heavily contested races, but perhaps no race has been more hotly debated than that of Cowlitz County Sheriff.

Incumbent Sheriff Mark Nelson is facing off against challenger Cowlitz County Deputy Brad Thurman. As electoral choices go, we always prefer to have to choose between two capable and skilled candidates than be faced with choosing the lesser of two evils.

And that’s exactly what Nelson and Thurman are: capable and skilled. Both have years of law enforcement experience, both have clear ideas for moving the sheriff’s office forward and both have the respect of colleagues and others in the community. In the end, the Daily News chose to recommend Brad Thurman.

As with any endorsement, this is simply our recommendation. We encourage all voters to examine the candidates and the issues before casting an educated and informed ballot.

This was not an easy decision for the editorial board to reach, or an endorsement to write. Many of us at The Daily News have known and worked with Mark Nelson for years. He is not only well-liked, but also kind, compassionate and he cares deeply about the citizens in his jurisdiction.

But while Nelson has served the citizens of Cowlitz County admirably in the nearly 10 years he’s been sheriff, we could not ignore the issues brought forward by local police and fire chiefs, as well as Thurman.

According to several chiefs quoted in an August news story, communications and cooperation between the sheriff’s office and other first responders have, at times, been strained. Conflicts and threats of legal action over the county’s emergency radio system in 2015 and how the sheriff’s office handles high-speed chases were at the top of their concerns.

Unfortunately, Sheriff Nelson did not seem to have a clear plan for repairing or improving those vital relationships. While we have no doubt that some of the grievances cited by Thurman during not just our editorial board meeting but also at several candidate forums have been overblown — still others were issues beyond Nelson’s control — some of the concerns cited by Thurman and other agency heads are very real.

We believe Brad Thurman has the support necessary from many of his fellow officers and other law enforcement, fire and first responder agencies needed to successfully manage the sheriff’s office.

For those reasons, The Daily News encourages you to vote for Brad Thurman for Cowlitz County Sheriff.

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