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Posted: October 11, 2012 8:28 p.m.

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Watterson endorses Sheriff Brown

Bradford questions motives of move


Former Republican opponent Bill Watterson endorses Sheriff Ezell Brown in his election campaign against Republican Philip Bradford, who beat Watterson in the primary.

As voters hear candidates' last stump speeches before early voting begins, former Republican candidate Bill Watterson has thrown his support behind Democratic incumbent Sheriff Ezell Brown.

"It gives me great pleasure to declare my support for the re-election of Sheriff Ezell Brown. I strongly believe that he is the best candidate for the job," Watterson wrote in an official statement. "As an incumbent, he brings more than promises, having proven what he can do for the citizens of Newton County."

Watterson initially resigned from the Newton County Sheriff's Office to mount a second campaign against Brown, but
he said when left with two candidates, he supported Brown over Covington Police Capt. Philip Bradford.

Bradford questioned the motives of Watterson, who pointed to Brown's nearly 40 years in law enforcement including 34 years with the sheriff's office when saying why he supported the incumbent.

"More than 20 years ago, I joined the sheriff's department and have had an opportunity to work alongside this man (Brown). This has given me first-hand knowledge of his management, investigative and people skills. A proven leader, he has long been well-respected for his ability to consider all aspects of a situation," Watterson wrote.

Watterson said Brown promoted initiatives at the sheriff's office while an employee, including leading the sex offender unit.

As sheriff, Watterson said Brown has continued to improve the office's professionalism, has been active out in the community and has promoted positive relations with the public.

However, Bradford, who beat Watterson in the Republican primary, accused Watterson of backtracking on a pledge to support Bradford.

"Bill Watterson's endorsement of Sheriff Brown is a desperate act among two desperate people. Watterson needs a job and the sheriff needs votes," Bradford said in an email. "Watterson approached me before the primary, looked me in the eye, shook my hand and said, ‘If I lose, I will come out in the paper the next day and give you 100 percent support.' I pledged the same to him.

"I have grown up believing that there is nothing more powerful than a promise made over a handshake. Bill Watterson was so passionate about the mismanagement of Sheriff Brown that he quit his job with the department after 23 years.

With what Watterson said in papers and forums about Sheriff Brown and his lack of leadership, I question Sheriff Brown's decision to even accept his endorsement. This is just a political ploy for Sheriff Brown to get votes. I would ask the voters to please see this for exactly what it is."

Watterson told The News his motive is simply to support the best candidate for the job. He said he has no job application in at the sheriff's office and has no offer on the table.

Watterson said he and Bradford discussed supporting each other after qualifying, but said after giving the matter more thought in the months that followed he believes the sheriff is the right person for the job.

"Over the past few weeks, I have come to realize that this office goes beyond partisan politics," Watterson wrote. "We cannot afford to turn this office over to someone who has never worked in this department and would have to depend solely on "on-the-job training" or the advice from others. This is a critical time in our history, and I am deeply committed to speaking out on behalf of the person who I believe can best serve and protect the people of Newton County."

Meanwhile, Bradford made his pitch for the county's top law enforcement job.

"If elected sheriff, I promise that I will stand firm on my core values and ethical beliefs and not waiver for a vote," he said. "My focus remains on the citizens of Newton County and providing them with the quality safety and security that they expect and deserve."

For his part, Sheriff Brown said, "As I stated my record speaks for itself. My expectation is that the voters of NC would score my card. I applaud Bill for his willingness to step out on behalf of my record as sheriff."


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