EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

October 25, 2010

Rockingham County has 3 choices for sheriff

There may be a front-runner in the three-way race for Rockingham County sheriff, but all three candidates say they are campaigning hard for the office in the lead-up to the election.

"I'm still keeping busy," state Sen. Michael Downing, R-Salem, said last week before a campaign event in Stratham. He said he had another event in Nottingham the next night.

Downing is the most visible candidate in the race, after defeating five others for the Republican nomination in last month's primary.

There were no candidates on the Democratic primary ballot, but Shannon Coyle of Derry ran a write-in campaign that earned her the party's nomination. Another candidate, Dorothy Heyl, declared her run for the seat as an independent in June.

"It's very positive. I've heard from people, 'Hey, I saw your sign out there,' that kind of thing," Coyle said. "The Democrats are excited — they know that we have to get people out to vote on Election Day."

Heyl said people have called her asking for her campaign signs — including some of the former candidates for the GOP nomination.

"The hardest part is being an independent," she said. "You don't get to go to all of these things the Republicans and the Democrats have, but it is going well."

Downing said his experience sets him apart from his opponents. He served in the military police, New Hampshire State Police and the Salem Police Department, before retiring due to a disability.

After his law enforcement career, Downing entered politics, serving as a state representative and then in the state Senate. He owns a small business in Salem, something he said would help him manage the department's budget of close to $5 million.

"You can appreciate a little better, I think, when they make these decisions what the impact is going to be on people," he said.

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