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story.lead_photo.caption A map showing House District 83

During his 12 years as Newton County sheriff, Keith Slape survived a plot to kidnap his son and an 80-mph collision with an elk.

When the dust settled, the elk was standing still.

"I was running code to a man with a knife trying to stab his wife," Slape said. "Apparently, a blue light is like a bug zapper to an elk."

Slape survived that crash a decade ago and was elected Tuesday to be state representative for District 83, a sprawling state House district that includes all or parts of five rural counties in north Arkansas.

Slape, 52, of Compton, won Tuesday's Republican Party primary runoff election, defeating state Rep. Donald Ragland, 71, of Marshall, by 44 votes.

The unofficial results were:

Slape 1,382

Ragland 1,338

Ragland said he won't ask for a recount.

"I'm out picking up my signs today," Ragland said late Wednesday, after putting 278 miles on his pickup since 4 a.m. "If somebody needs something to cover a chicken house, they can have them."

Slape faces no opposition in the Nov. 6 general election, so he'll begin serving as state representative in January.

District 83 includes all of Newton County and parts of Boone, Carroll, Pope and Searcy counties.

Also on Tuesday, Glenn Wheeler, one of Slape's deputies, was elected sheriff. He defeated Jasper Police Chief Michael Henderson in the Republican primary runoff election.

The unofficial results were:

Wheeler 1,012

Henderson 663

No candidates from other parties filed to run in the general election, so Wheeler will begin serving as sheriff when Slape leaves office at the end of the year.

"Sheriff Slape did a lot of good things for the county and built a strong foundation, and I want to build on that," Wheeler said.

The sheriff's office has seven full-time employees in enforcement and two part time, said Wheeler. That's counting the sheriff but not counting employees at the Newton County jail.

In his job at the sheriff's office, Wheeler said he serves as investigator, search and rescue coordinator, jail sergeant and department sniper.

Slape and Wheeler advanced to runoff elections after the May 22 primary elections. Both were in three-man races in which no candidate received 50 percent of the vote May 22.

Timmy Reid of Marshall, a cattle farmer, finished third in the Republican primary for the District 83 seat. Chase Smith, a Newton County deputy, finished third in the May 22 primary to be sheriff.

Ragland will have a short stint in the state House. He was sworn in June 5 to fill out the remainder of David Branscum's two-year term that expires in mid-January.

Branscum, R-Marshall, resigned in November to become the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development director in Arkansas.

Ragland won in a special primary election over Reid in February and ran unopposed in the special election May 22.

Ragland said the Newton County sheriff's race being on the same ballot as the House District 83 race drew more voters to the polls in Newton County, and that's what beat him. Ragland said not as many voters turned out in his native Searcy County.

According to the Arkansas secretary of state's office, Slape won in Newton County by 276 votes and Ragland won in Searcy County by 264 votes.

Ragland said he would be over the defeat by this weekend when he was to go to Jasper, the Newton County seat, to judge a cooking contest at the Buffalo River Elk Festival.

Ragland is a former wildlife officer for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. He served as Searcy County sheriff in 2013 and 2014.

Slape is a former president of the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association.

Slape said the most harrowing experience during his time as sheriff was learning that there was a plot to kidnap his son and use his son as leverage to free David Ray Middleton of Mount Judea from the Benton County jail.

Metro on 06/24/2018

Print Headline: Slape wins in House seat runoff

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