EVERETT —After an uncomfortable and sometimes confrontational race, Sgt. Adam Fortney is leading against his boss, Sheriff Ty Trenary, to become the next leader of Snohomish County’s largest law enforcement agency.
In the first batch of votes Tuesday night, Fortney led Trenary with 56% of the vote.
“I’m just excited for a different path for Snohomish County,” he said, talking by phone from his Lake Stevens house Tuesday. “I meant it when I said it on the campaign trail, I’m going take the handcuffs off police officers and put them on the criminals where they belong.”
Trenary could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
In two contests for the Snohomish County Superior Court bench, voters were favoring Anna Alexander and Paul Thompson.
Alexander led Edirin Okoloko, an incumbent who had been appointed to his position, 53% to 46%. Thompson was ahead of opponent Cassandra Lopez-Shaw 56% to 43%. Thompson also was an incumbent appointed to be judge.
Thousands of more ballots are still to be counted.
The sheriff’s race became a referendum on Trenary’s six years of leadership. He staked his reputation on reforming the county jail and taking a more compassionate approach to law enforcement.
Fortney, who has been a Snohomish County deputy for 23 years, ran as a self-proclaimed “law and order” candidate with a tough-on-crime approach to policing.
The sheriff and the sergeant sat side by side numerous times throughout the election season, remaining cordially disagreeable in front of audiences. But tensions rose as deputies supporting Fortney were investigated and fired for policy violations, and as Fortney decried the terminations as calculated political moves.
Fortney made jail bookings a central talking point in the election. As a night patrol sergeant, he protested an inability to book suspects for misdemeanor crimes due to medical reasons, as a result of restrictions Trenary put into place.
Those restrictions recently were lifted, but Trenary said Fortney’s claims amounted to “fear mongering.” People were still getting arrested, Trenary said; the jail hosts about 850 inmates on average, and more than 20,000 people were booked into the facility last year. Only people suspected of nonviolent crimes would be turned away.
In Trenary’s view, the decision to put restrictions on bookings evolved from necessity. When he first took office in 2013, he inherited a jail that struggled to take care of inmates. Between 2010 and 2014, over a dozen people died in custody.
To prevent more deaths, the jail doubled medical staffing, added medical and mental health screenings, and offered Suboxone to inmates suffering from opiate addiction.
Trenary also touted outside-the-box approaches to crime, such as social workers who have teamed up with deputies to help people experiencing homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness, and a new diversion center that’s used to steer those people toward longer-term services.
If elected, Fortney said he wouldn’t automatically scrap Trenary’s innovations, but he indicated that criminals would need to face the consequences of their actions.