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Kalvin Barrett easily wins Dane County sheriff's race over Det. Anthony Hamilton

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Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, left, and Detective Anthony Hamilton.

After a combative campaign, Democratic Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett trounced Republican challenger Det. Anthony Hamilton with almost all precincts reporting late Tuesday. It's the first competitive sheriff’s race in eight years.

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Barrett, appointed to the post in October 2021 by Gov. Tony Evers after the retirement of former Sheriff David Mahoney, campaigned on making progress through serving people, community engagement, enhancing jail programs and hiring diverse staff.

“This election is about the great voters of Dane County electing a sheriff that is focused on public safety, community engagement and innovative and practical criminal justice reform implementations,” he said Tuesday night. “The people of Dane County deserve a sheriff with diverse experiences in their personal and professional background.”

Hamilton, a 14-year veteran at the Sheriff’s Office, accused Barrett of injecting “identity politics” into the operations of the office, such as referring to those incarcerated at the jail as “residents” rather than “inmates.” He also campaigned on fixing a severe staff shortage at the Sheriff’s Office and “not paying lip service" to extreme ideologies.

In early September, Hamilton sued the Sheriff’s Office in federal court alleging that officials conspired to remove him from the SWAT team for raising concern about a search at a hotel in March 2021 he considered to be illegal. Days later, Barrett placed Hamilton on paid leave but didn’t reveal details on why. Hamilton is still on paid leave.

“This election was about the integrity of the Dane County Sheriff's Office and how political extremism negatively affects public safety,” Hamilton said Tuesday night, adding that he’ll do an analysis of the result in coming weeks. "I have every belief that Kalvin Barrett will do whatever is in his power to have me terminated, Hamilton said. "I plan to relax, recuperate, and spend more time with my family.”

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Barrett promoted a program to better treat jail residents who have opioid addictions, diversionary programs that are more appropriate for some offenders, and diversity so peace officers would reflect the community they serve. He said initiatives to recruit women and others from diverse racial, professional and socioeconomic backgrounds are a key solution to fixing the deputy shortage fueled by retirements and resignations.

“The people trust that as sheriff, I will continue to build relationships and solve community problems through evidence-based decision making and procedural justice,” he said.

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