Tears filled the eyes of Mike Nielsen as he hugged Boone County Sheriff Ken Campbell after clinching the Republican bid for the sheriff’s race in the primary elections Tuesday evening. Campbell had a piece of advice for him: “Take a breath. Enjoy this moment forever.”Nielsen, a current major in the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, won the primary election with 83.5 percent of the vote, or 5,357 votes. Opponent Joseph Dennemann had 16.5 percent, or 1,059 votes.
Nielsen and his campaign team, in yellow T-shirts that read “the big dog has your back,” filled the upper level of Arni’s Restaurant as the results came in Tuesday. Cheering broke out once a voice yelled, “Dude, you just won!” The group then trekked from Arni’s across the street to the Boone County Courthouse as passing cars honked their horns in celebration. Hugs and congratulations were exchanged in the Courthouse.“I am very surprised, and truly humbled,” Nielsen said, once at the Courthouse. “I said we were going to run a clean campaign, an honest campaign, and run like we were 100 points behind the whole time. And we stuck to that. By God’s grace, I am blessed and humbled.”Nielsen credited his success to his campaign team, a large group of supporters who sported those yellow T-shirts since Nielsen’s campaign began 18 months ago.“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you,” Nielsen said to the supporters at Arni’s after the results were announced. “I will make one promise to you. I will not let you down. I will be the best sheriff I can be for the next eight years.”Eight years is two terms, and Nielsen confirmed his intention to run again for a second term in 2018. That has been his goal all along, he said. He doesn’t know if he will run against a Democratic opponent in the fall. But if so, he will stick to the same plan — running the campaign like he is 100 points behind, giving it all he has.“Thanks to Boone County for trusting me, for believing in me, for allowing me to live in this county and to give something back that I’ve wanted to give for a long time,” Nielsen said.