Harford sheriff candidates

Incumbent Harford County Sheriff Jesse Bane, left, is unopposed in the Democratic primary, while Jeff Gahler and John Ryan, second and third from left, are vying for the Republican nomination. Bob Peck filed as an independent but must still submit a 1,500-signature petition to the board of elections to be on the general election ballot in November. (The Aegis / Baltimore Sun Media Group / June 6, 2014)

Two Republican candidates are running for the GOP nomination in this year's race for Harford County sheriff, which will bring the eventual opportunity to challenge incumbent two-term Sheriff Jesse Bane, who is a Democrat.

The top Republican vote-getter in the June 24 primary will challenge Bane in the November general election, county Elections Director Kevin Keene said.

Bane and the GOP nominee could have company, however, if unaffiliated candidate Bob Peck by August gets about 1,500 signatures on a petition to be on the general election ballot, Keene said.

Jeff Gahler - Republican

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Jeff Gahler, 49, of Forest Hill, is making his second run for sheriff. He ran as a Republican against Bane in the 2010 general election, and was narrowly defeated, 47,347 votes to 44,261.

The retired 28-year veteran of the Maryland State Police said people get into law enforcement because "they want to be in a job, in a profession, where they can make a difference in people's lives and in public safety."

"The sheriff's office is the epitome of that ability," Gahler said in a recent interview.

Gahler said that, if elected sheriff; said he would improve the county's detention center, which he said is in "abysmal shape," put more deputies on the road and restore the morale of the agency's personnel, which he claims is at its lowest point in 25 years.

"I am supportive of returning positions to patrol and giving the men and women on the road the resources they need," he said.

Gahler also attacked how the jail is being run under Bane's leadership – he noted the facility has been without a warden for more than a year, and that nine people have died while in custody during Bane's tenure.

"He's failed to appoint appropriate leadership up there," he said of the sheriff.

Gahler retired from the State Police in 2012; his time with the agency included serving as commander of the Bel Air Barrack and commander of the Northern Troop, overseeing troopers in Carroll, Cecil and Harford counties.

He is an operating partner with Advanced Leadership Consortium of Bel Air, a leadership training and development and business consulting firm. He also teaches law enforcement-related classes at his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University.

He has a bachelor's degree in leadership and management and a master's in management, both from Hopkins, and an associate's in criminal justice from Harford Community College.

He is married with two daughters.

John Ryan - Republican

John Ryan, 47, of Darlington, is a 22-year veteran of the Harford County Sheriff's Office. He has been a deputy since 1992, and he is a deputy first class assigned to patrol in the Northern Precinct in Jarrettsville.

"I work hard," he said in an interview Tuesday. "I give you 210 percent and I make sure that the decisions I make benefit the agency and the citizens of Harford County and not just myself."

Ryan is a 1984 graduate of Joppatowne High School. After high school he began working for the corporate division of Martin State Airport in Middle River, where he spent five years as a corporate pilot flying Beechcraft King Air airplanes.

He joined the Bel Air Police Department in 1989 as a patrol officer. He joined the Sheriff's Office in 1992. In addition to serving as a patrol deputy, Ryan has been a member of the CART, or Community Action Response Team, assigned to high-crime areas, and the Community Policing Unit.