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.”
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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.
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