Politics & Government

Six candidates seek 3 seats in Fayette County's constable races

District 1, Jeff D. Jacob, top left, and Wade McNabb, bottom left.

District 2, Jim McKenzie top center, and Wayne Winburn bottom center.

District 3, Steve Hamlin, top right, and Edward Sparks, bottom right.
District 1, Jeff D. Jacob, top left, and Wade McNabb, bottom left. District 2, Jim McKenzie top center, and Wayne Winburn bottom center. District 3, Steve Hamlin, top right, and Edward Sparks, bottom right.

Six candidates are running for three constable positions in Fayette County's three districts in the November election.

They're vying for an office that admittedly isn't exactly glamorous and, in the view of some observers, isn't needed anymore.

But don't tell that to the candidates, all of whom contend the office of constable remains essential.

Here's a breakdown of the districts:

District One: Republican Wade McNabb, 36, faces Democrat Jeff D. Jacob, 56, for a seat that's open because longtime constable Joyce Clater is retiring.

District Two: Incumbent Jim McKenzie, 53, a Republican, is running against Democrat Kenneth Wayne Winburn, 71. McKenzie, a bank loan officer and Navy veteran, says he's running because he has "always wanted to be a public servant," and that "helping people is what we do." Winburn says he knows the job "backwards and forwards," having worked for several constables, including managing his late wife's office during her 17 years as constable.

District Three: Incumbent Republican Steve Hamlin, 49, is opposed by Democrat Edward "Eddie" Sparks, 39. Sparks, who lost to Hamlin in the Republican primary four years ago and switched parties for this election, works as deputy constable in District Two and is vice president of the Kentucky Constables Association. Hamlin touts his experience and improvements he has made, including introducing a system that allows clients to track the serving of legal papers by his office.

The office of constable dates to Kentucky's early days.

Constables still play a law enforcement role in some counties. But Fayette County's three elected constables and their staffs mainly provide services such as handling evictions and serving legal papers. Instead of salaries, they receive fees paid by parties in litigation.

The Kentucky Law Enforcement Council argued in a report two years ago, however, that constables aren't needed anymore. Last year, Kentucky lawmakers considered a proposed constitutional amendment that would have given counties the option of eliminating constables, but it didn't pass.

A potential issue in the District One race could be a recent report by WLEX-TV that McNabb was sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted in Lewis County of third-degree sodomy involving a 14-year-old boy.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals overturned McNabb's conviction in 2010 on grounds that he received ineffective legal counsel at trial. He was released from prison after serving slightly more than five years, and the charge was expunged.

McNabb said he maintained his innocence all along.

"I stand on the premise that I was cleared of everything I was accused of; everything was dismissed against me," he said. "When your record is expunged, it's as if it never happened."

McNabb, a former police officer, said he had talked with people about the case while campaigning door to door.

"The overwhelming majority have been supportive and seem to feel that the court finally saw the discrepancies in the case," he said.

McNabb's campaign video on YouTube says he has been endorsed by Jim McKenzie, the District Two incumbent.

McNabb has 17 years of experience in law enforcement and eight years of experience as a paralegal. He is a 2001 graduate of Kentucky Christian University.

According to Kentucky Court of Appeals records, the original charges against McNabb dated to early 2003, when he was a youth minister at a Lewis County church. The appeals court ultimately found that when the case came to trial, McNabb's attorney made a "serious error," opening the door to the introduction of "highly prejudicial" evidence that had been ruled inadmissible during a pretrial conference.

The appeals court overturned McNabb's conviction based on the finding.

Asked whether the case would be an issue in the race for constable, McNabb's opponent, Jeff Jacob, said only that he encourages "voters to know who they are electing," and that "a lot of power and authority goes with the office."

"Voters should look at each candidate's background and make their own decisions," he said.

Jacob, a bank security director, has extensive experience as a deputy constable, having been a deputy for six constables since 1992. He is now chief deputy under Steve Hamlin, the incumbent in District Three.

"I'm proud of what Steve and I have done to upgrade the professionalism of the office, ... and I want to continue that tradition," Jacob said.