CHARLES TOWN, W.Va.—For the most part, Earl Ballenger, the Republican candidate in the Jefferson County sheriff's race, is paying for his own campaign.
"It's all on me except for a little help from family and friends," said Ballenger, 64, of Longerbeam Drive in Millville, W.Va.
A retired deputy sheriff after 24 years on the job, Ballenger is challenging his former boss, Sheriff Bobby Shirley, who is running for a second four-year term.
The sheriff's job pays an annual salary, set by state law, of $44,800 plus 2 percent (not to exceed $15,000) of the delinquent taxes collected each year.
Early voting runs from Oct. 24 through Nov. 3 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Ballenger retired from the department in 2009 with the rank of sergeant. He ended a nearly quarter-century career working under six sheriffs, including Donald Giardino, Roy Thomas, Robert Buracker, William Senseney, Ed Boober and Shirley.
While a deputy, Ballenger set up and ran the county's home confinement system and worked on the concealed weapons and community service programs.
His campaign strategy includes knocking on doors, speaking at candidate forums and speaking wherever there's a crowd, such as the recent Jefferson County Fair.
He said the sheriff's department needs more deputies. Jefferson County's historic, cultural and recreational offerings swell the county's population on busy weekends to more than 100,000 people, he said.
Ballenger said he lost all interest in the sheriff's department when he retired until local Republican officials asked him to run against Shirley.
"They asked me to think about it because they needed a Republican to run for the office," he said.
He asked around and learned that morale in the sheriff's department was down, so he decided to run.
"Things seemed to be going downhill," he said. "The office is not as professional as it used to be. I believe I can do the job and bring integrity and respect back to the department."
He said he has been encouraged by the positive feedback he has received from residents on the campaign trail.
Ballenger bought all of his small signs, but he had to make his 45 large ones because he didn't have money to buy them, he said.
"I don't put signs on anybody's property unless I get permission," he said.