Sheriff survives challenge from own employee in Salem County race

This was the first election Republican Sheriff Chuck Miller had faced a challenger since he first ran for office in 2006.

Republican Chuck Miller fended off a challenge by one of his own employees to win re-election as Salem County sheriff Tuesday, according to unofficial vote tallies.

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Democrat Bob Gant, a lieutenant in the county Sheriff’s Office and head of the local police union, had challenged Miller for his job in an election contest which had turned bitter at times.

The vote was 12,834 for Miller and 10,751 for Gant.

The campaign at times was contentious with unsubstantiated claims being tossed between the two campaigns.

There was also a split among the officers and other employees who work under Miller’s command when they supported challenger Gant.

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This was the first election Miller had faced a challenger since he first ran for office in 2006.

The sheriff serves a three-year term in a job which carries great responsibilities. The Sheriff’s Office oversees sheriff’s officers who guard the county courthouse and serve warrants, among their other duties.

The sheriff is in charge of the county correctional facility and the officers there. Emergency management now falls under the sheriff’s command, including the 911 emergency call center.

In all it’s 300-plus employees.

Live results from Salem Co. election

Miller, an Elsinboro Township resident, began his law enforcement career as a Salem City police officer. He later worked in the Salem County Prosecutor’s Office, advancing through the ranks to become county chief of detectives.

After retiring, Miller worked in homeland security roles before being elected to his first term as sheriff in November 2006.

“I have strived to ensure that the Salem County Sheriff’s Office has been recognized as a premier law enforcement agency,” said Miller Tuesday, touting his efforts in consolidating operations “to provide quality services and at the same time reduce spending saving the taxpayers considerable cost.”

Gant, of Pennsville, a veteran of 23 years in law enforcement, started as a corrections officer and now is a lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Office which Miller runs.

President of the Salem County Fraternal Order of Police for 15 years and president of the Salem County Superior Officers Association for 10 years, Gant was the organizer of the effort which saw the county freeholder board reduced from seven to five members and freeholders cut their salaries 20 percent.

The grassroots effort came as the cash-strapped freeholder board considered privatizing the county’ 911 center and jail nurses as a way to save money.

“I will reduce the size of county government starting at the top of the law enforcement side,” Gant said when announcing his candidacy this year. “We have too many double-dippers.”

“We must shrink the size of county government for the sake of the taxpayers. That’s what I intend to do.”

All results are unofficial until certified.

Bill Gallo Jr. may be reached at Follow Bill Gallo Jr. on Twitter @bgallojr. Find on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us.

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