King County Sheriff's race: Johanknecht defeats incumbent John Urquhart

by: Casey McNerthney Updated:

UPDATE, 4:05 p.m. Nov. 9: Challenger Mitzi Johanknecht defeated incumbent John Urquhart in the race for King County Sheriff. 

Johanknecht led Urquhart with 54 percent of the vote to his 45 percent, as of Wednesday afternoon with 370,521 votes counted.

Johanknecht is the second person in King County history to unseat an incumbent Sheriff – going back to 1852. The first was Uruqhart beating incumbent Steve Strachan in 2012. 

ORIGINAL TEXT: Incumbent King County Sheriff John Urquhart is facing a re-election challenge from someone within his own office, a 32-year law enforcement veteran Mitzi Johanknecht.

Urquhart, who previously was a sergeant and served as the office spokesman under former sheriffs Dave Reichert and Sue Rahr, was first elected in 2012 after beating incumbent Steve Strachan. 

Urquhart is the 33rd King County sheriff since the first in 1852, and appears to be the only one who beat an incumbent, according to King County Library staff.

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Johanknecht is the Southwest Precinct Commander, and has worked in law enforcement for 32 years and spent nearly 20 years in managerial and command roles within the Sheriff’s Office.

Recently, Urquhart responded to a sex assault claim and sued the accuser. He also has been accused of rape by a woman who filed for a protection order against him. 

The rape claim stems from 2002 and Urquhart has denied ever having sexual contact with her. Seattle police investigated and prosecutors did not file charges.

In court on Tuesday, the woman who made the rape claim against Urquhart said she has “a significant amount of evidence” to show she’s being harassed by him and claimed the sheriff passed out her private medical files.

Speaking to KIRO 7 last week, Urquhart said that’s not true – the documents he has are public records, part of the woman’s divorce file. Those public documents include details about her mental health. 

“We’ve been accused of offering to release 300 pages of private medical records,” Urquhart said.  “Those don’t exist, at least not with us.  We’ve never had them.  We’ve never offered to release those, period.  That never happened.”

The sheriff says he did give public records from her divorce to journalists that include details about her mental health.

On his election statement, Urquhart said he’s “committed to recruiting and hiring a workforce reflective of the communities we serve.”

“Those deputies will receive ongoing de-escalation and anti-bias training, and increased access to less-lethal policing tools,” he wrote. “This is why I was the first law enforcement official to endorse I-940. I will create a Community Outreach unit whose job will be to listen to you, answer your questions and work with you to improve public safety for everyone.”

Follow this link to read Urquhart’s full statement. 

In her election statement, Johanknecht said “to earn the community’s trust, we must reimagine our role in society.”

“I am running to restore integrity to the Sheriff’s Office,” she wrote. “We should not be spending our limited County budgets settling sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits; we should be modeling positive work environments that value all people. I am committed to fairness and equity for our community at all times, not just when the media is watching.”

Follow this link to read Johanknecht’s full statement.


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