Heat Advisory in effect Friday 10:00 am until 8:00 pm

Portsmouth Sheriff candidates face off in forum

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The race for Portsmouth Sheriff is on.

Sheriff Bill Watson and his two challengers, Michael Moore and Glenn Perry Sr., got the opportunity to face voters Thursday night in a forum put on by Political Action Committee 'People for Portsmouth' at Scottish Rite Center.

Sheriff's office responsibilities include running the Portsmouth jail and providing court security.

Each candidate got the opportunity to field questions from moderators and the audience.

"Why would you strip search the nurses?" one audience member asked Sheriff Watson about an incident in 2012.

"We had nurses that was bringing in illegal contraband into the jail," he responded.

Watson faced a number of questions about controversial past decisions, including chasing down former Mayor Kenny Wright for an expired inspection sticker last year. Watson says he doesn't mind the questions.

"People need to know what's going on," he said.

The three candidates also got the chance to explain why they are the best choice for voters come November.

"My integrity, what I bring to Portsmouth. Been here 37 years, never got caught up in a lie," said Perry, a Commonwealth's Attorney employee.

Moore says he wants to focus on communication between departments.

"I think there needs to be new leadership with all the bickering that's been going on back and forth between the sheriff, city council, the mayor," he said.

Sheriff Watson argued communication is much better in recent months. He also touted his ability to work with a tight budget and called out Circuit Court Clerk Cynthia Morrison, Sen. Louise Lucas and School Board member Costella Williams.

"They think they own this city," he said. "We've got corruption in this city. I'm not going to bow to down to people. I work for the people."

The forum lasted a little more than an hour.

So far Sheriff Watson has a commanding lead in campaign donations, raising $180,000. Moore is second with around $6,000.