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Fletcher Elected as Hancock County Sheriff

Hancock County will have four more years of Sheriff Ralph Fletcher, a no-nonsense, mustachioed lawman who ran on a tough drug enforcement record.

On Tuesday, Fletcher, 64, of Weirton, easily defeated Mark Cowden, a Republican opponent whose candidacy was seriously weakened by a conviction in October on an excessive-use-of-force charge.

Hancock County voters chose Fletcher over Cowden by a vote of 7,445 to 4,966, according to unofficial results released by the Hancock County Clerk’s Office.

The campaign for sheriff took an unusual twist in June, when Cowden, a retired sheriff’s lieutenant with 26 years in the department, was indicted on charges related to the arrest of a DUI suspect in January 2015.

Cowden was charged with deprivation of rights under color of law and obstruction of justice–a prosecution that he claimed during his trial in October was politically motivated. A jury found him guilty of the first charge and acquitted him of the obstruction charge.

Fletcher distanced himself from the prosecution and focused his campaign on his record. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, a professional photographer from Weirton will be the next Hancock County commissioner.

Paul Rex Cowey III, 54, defeated two opponents Tuesday night, receiving 5,460 votes, compared to the 4,078 votes for Republican Gregory Baldt and 2,735 votes for independent John Crow.

“I look forward to serving the people of Hancock County,” Cowey said. “I look forward to serving the county with honesty and integrity.”

In the Hancock County circuit clerk’s race, Republican Chuck Wright defeated Democrat Patricia “Diane” Dillon, 6,427 votes to 5,661.

“Needless to say, I’m extremely happy and very much grateful to the voters of Hancock County for electing me to the position of circuit clerk,” Wright, a Weirton city councilman, said. “I spent the last two or three days thinking this could go either way.”

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