Longtime Republican Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson and his Democratic challenger Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux met for the first time as candidates on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight and faced off in a fiery two-hour debate that contained equal parts policy discussion and personal attacks.

The first hour of the debate, the candidates answered hosts' questions. The second hour, they took calls from the audience.

Marcus Ferro/Townsquare Media
Courtesy Hodgson Committee

In his opening statement, Hodgson went on the offensive and attacked Heroux's resume, specifically his corrections experience, saying that Heroux was a "paper pusher" during his time in the Philadelphia prison system and the Massachusetts Department of Correction.

"My opponent has no law enforcement experience. In fact, he has very little corrections experience. His role was never in a leadership position. He was not a decision-maker," Hodgson said.

"The difference between [Heroux] and I is that I’ve been in law enforcement for 30 years. I’ve been the sheriff for 25 and I’ve committed to this job, this passion of keeping our community safe."

Hodgson also accused Heroux, who served as Attleboro's state representative from 2013 until 2017 when he was elected mayor, of being a "career politician" who is in a constant search for higher office.

Heroux rebuffed Hodgson's attacks on his experience saying that the Philadelphia prison system is a "mega-jail" that had over 9,500 inmates, that he worked closely with the inmate population and had a management position at the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. He also said he believes executive branch elected officials should be term-limited.

"I am running for this office because I felt compelled to run." Heroux replied. "The things I've seen and the things I've heard about what's going on at the Bristol County Sheriff's Office are less than professional and they certainly could be improved upon."

He added: "The folks of Attleboro had asked me to run for mayor. They felt like it was time for change. And now as mayor, a lot of people had asked me to run for sheriff because it's certainly time for change as well. I don't want to be sheriff for life. I want to go in, make the system better and move on. That's exactly what I've done as mayor."

Marcus Ferro/Townsquare Media
Marcus Ferro/Townsquare Media

The topics discussed during the debate were related to the most common issues throughout the election: recidivism (inmates reoffending), the sheriff's role in law enforcement and in immigration policy, each candidates qualifications for the job, and suicide prevention protocols following the suicide of Adam Howe, a high-profile murder suspect held at New Bedford's Ash Street Jail, and a recently revealed suicide attempt that occurred minutes earlier involving another person.

Listen to the full Bristol County Sheriff's Debate moderated by Chris McCarthy and Marcus Ferro on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight podcast.

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WARNING: Under no circumstances should you enter this property. By doing so you risk bodily harm and/or prosecution for trespassing on private property.

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