By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer
Calling it a “bittersweet victory,” Charles Pearson easily claimed a fourth term as Muskogee County sheriff.
Pearson defeated Republican challenger Roger Lee in Tuesday’s general election, the third time the two have squared off for county sheriff.
Pearson, who hosted his watch party with a small group of family and friends, said election season was a favorite of his late wife, Stephanie, who died suddenly in October.
“She loved to be out, waving at the public,” Pearson said. “And she loved being at the watch party. This is what she looked forward to the most.”
Pearson earned 17,557 votes, or 75.7 percent, outdistancing Lee, a longtime Muskogee police officer and deputy, who garnered 5,638 votes, or 24.3 percent.
“There are a lot of issues that need tackling, and we can go back and get to work on those now,” Pearson said.
Leading up to the general election, Pearson had trumpeted a series of advancements the sheriff’s office and county had gained during his 12-year reign as sheriff.
With the success of the Muskogee County E911 Center, improvements to courthouse security and the safety of county deputies and rural police officers, Pearson said he can turn his department’s eyes fully toward issues facing the Muskogee County/City Detention Facility.
“Jail overcrowding is a major issue we can’t avoid,” Pearson said. “One thing we’ve done since I’ve been sheriff is to try and stay ahead of issues and changes facing us. We need a bigger jail, whether it means a new facility or improving the one we have now. It can’t be put off.”
Pearson said the jail averaged 210 inmates when he took over as sheriff in 2000. It now routinely houses more than 300. He mentioned possibly adding a floor on top of the existing facility, or building another facility elsewhere in the county that might house non-violent offenders.
“We don’t want taxpayers to have to foot the bill,” Pearson said. “So we’re looking at alternative ways to find the money. But the bottom line is, it has to be done.”
Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth
With 33 of 33 precincts reporting:
• Charles Pearson, 17,557, 75.7 percent.
• Roger Lee, 5,638, 24.3 percent.