Government

Brad Kunkel easily wins sheriff's primary in Johnson County

IOWA CITY — Voters on Tuesday selected the man most likely to become the next Johnson County Sheriff in a resounding fashion.

Johnson County Detective Sgt. Brad Kunkel cruised to a dominant primary election victory over Cedar Rapids Police Sgt. Al Fear, who lives in Swisher.

According to unofficial returns, Kunkel, 40, garnered roughly 80 percent of the vote.

“It’s a pretty amazing feeling,” Kunkel said Tuesday from a gathering of family and friends. “I think — and it shows — an honorable, truth-based campaign is what Johnson County wants right now. It’s what they deserve.”

Election Results: See primary results from other county and state races

Kunkel’s victory comes 13 months to the day that he announced his intentions to succeed Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, who did not seek re-election and who endorsed Kunkel.

Fear — best known in Eastern Iowa and around the state for his work with the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative — likely represented Kunkel’s largest obstacle to becoming sheriff.

While Kunkel still has to win in the Nov. 3 general election, no Republicans have filed to challenge for the seat, said Karen Fesler, chairwoman of the Johnson County Republicans.

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Pulkrabek, since winning the sheriff’s job in 2004, has not been opposed in a primary or general election. All of Johnson County’s elected officials are Democrats.

Calling politics “unpredictable,” Kunkel said he had no idea whether he would have a Republican challenger in the general election,

“I look forward to November and getting sworn in January,” he said.

Kunkel joined the sheriff’s office as a jail deputy in 2001 and shifted to patrol five years later. He was promoted to sergeant in 2013 and moved to investigations in 2018.

Kunkel has a bachelor’s degree in political science and religious studies from the University of Iowa. He is a former Solon City Council member and has served on the boards for 100+ Men Who Care and the Domestic Violence Intervention Program. Kunkel credited his victory to that experience.

“I have a lifetime of a reputation in the community,” he said. “But also I made the effort to serve outside of the office. I think the public really appreciates that and sees that level of dedication.”

The sheriff’s job paid $152,998 in fiscal 2020. The sheriff oversees 71 deputies, 23 civilian employees, five part-time employees and 25 reserve deputies.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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