TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – Sunday afternoon, exactly one month before the May 6 primary election, Tippecanoe County Sheriff candidate Dave Heath got an endorsement from a group of law enforcement officials.
In a statement, members of the Tippecanoe Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 135 announced they voted to endorse Heath for sheriff.
“To me, personally, it’s very important,” Heath said. “I think to have the endorsement of the people who are really out there. The ones who do the work, every day, day in and day out, it’s very important to me that they feel that way.”
The endorsement came as a surprise to Heath’s opponent Barry Richard. He said in February the group’s president, Jason Huber, told him the group was not going to make an endorsement.
He said he has connected the dots and called the endorsement a political ploy.
“The major on the sheriff’s department, Charlie Williams Sr., is a major contributor to the Heath campaign,” Richard said. “Charlie Williams Sr.’s son-in-law, Jason Huber, is the president of their lodge.”
Richard is a member of FOP Lodge 49. He said lodges usually do not make political endorsements.
Heath used to be a member of the lodge endorsing him, and said it’s not always that way.
“I think the way they decided is — they saw if they had enough interest, [and] do enough members of the FOP want to participate in it,” Heath said. “You have to have a certain percentage of people interested in it before it can be done.”
“I think the way our lodge has been throughout the history of our lodge of not getting involved in the election and staying neutral is the proper and appropriate way for our community,” Richard said.
In the statement, FOP members cited Heath’s experience, including 21 years in the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office and eight years as sheriff, as reason for the endorsement.
Richard said he does not think this new endorsement will hurt his campaign.