Virden elected Osage County sheriff

Mike Erwin |
Osage County Sheriff-elect Eddie Virden celebrates his victory Tuesday during an election night watch party at the Pawhuska Elk’s Lodge.

Eddie Virden emerged victorious in the race for Osage County sheriff, providing the local highlight in Tuesday’s general election which saw county voters mirror other Oklahomans in a majority of the state and national contests.

In the race for District 2 Osage County Commissioner, 59-year-old Skiatook Republican Kevin Paslay unseated incumbent Scott Hilton. It was Pasley’s third campaign for the commission seat that Hilton, a 58-year-old Skiatook Democrat, had held since 1997.

Incumbent state Rep. Sean Roberts of Hominy retained his District 36 seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Roberts, a Republican, earned his third term by doubling the vote total of his Democrat challenger, Cathy Ross of Pawhuska — 7,538 to 3,743.

Virden received 52 percent of the votes in defeating current Undersheriff Lou Ann Brown. The 50-year-old Pawhuska Republican will succeeed retiring Osage County Sheriff Ty Koch. Virden garnered 9,873 votes compared to 8,919 for Brown, a 61-year-old Democrat from Skiatook.

“Now, the real work begins,” said Virden, who has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience.

Virden, who is the ranch manager at Mullendore Cross Bell Ranch, worked as a criminal investigator for Osage County, under Koch, from 2005 to 2010. He later served as a special state agent for several counties, including Osage. It was not the first sheriff’s race for Virden, although it was his first time to be a candidate.

“I campaigned for my brother-in-law, Pat Ballard (the Washington County Sheriff from 1990-2008),” Virden said. “It’s a whole lot different when you’re doing it for yourself, though.”

Virden said he intends to create a citizen’s advisory panel to assist the OCSO. The sheriff-elect also plans to enhance the county’s reserve officer program.

“I think it’s critical for us to work on building back the trust of the public,” he said. “We will build from a team base and use all of the resources available to us.

“My intent is to better law enforcement and give the people of Osage County the protection they deserve,” Virden added.

The Osage County contests for sheriff and commissioner remained in doubt until late Tuesday evening. Voter results from the last of the 28 county precincts arrived at the Election Board Office at a quarter past midnight. Board members are to meet Friday to officially certify the results, Election Board Secretary Andrea Conner said.

With 26 of Osage County’s 28 precincts counted, Virden led by more than 1,500 votes. He then outpolled Brown, 1,200 to 1,000, in the remaining Skiatook precinct. Virden split the votes with Brown in the remaining North Tulsa precinct, where voters had reportedly still been waiting to cast ballots at 9 p.m.

Osage County also helped re-elect state Rep. Travis Dunlap to a second term. District 10 voters in the northeastern part of the county favored Dunlap, a Bartlesville Republican, over Democrat Eric Epperson, 802 to 207.