A former Bristol County prosecutor is hoping to unseat longtime incumbent Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson in next year’s election.
Nicholas Bernier, 36, of Fall River, a Democrat, has filed papers with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance announcing his intention to throw his hat in the ring.
“I think it’s time for a change. That’s why I’m running,” Bernier said Wednesday.
Before becoming a partner in the Rampart Law Group LLC, Bernier served as an assistant district attorney for former Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter.
While also passionate about the law, Bernier says he has always had an interest in politics and a passion for public service.
In 2012, Bernier lost a close election for Governor’s Council that included a recount. The council considers approvals of judicial nominees and clerk magistrates, among other duties.
Bernier also made headlines as a major witness for federal prosecutors in the recent trial of disgraced former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia. Bernier once worked for Correia’s software company, SnoOwl.
Bernier said he wants to focus on concerns about drugs in Bristol County, rehabilitating incarcerated individuals and closing the Ash Street Jail in New Bedford rather than raise national issues like illegal immigration at the Southern border.
“While I respect the sheriff,” Bernier said. “I disagree with his policies.”
Hodgson, 67, one of the most prominent Republicans in a state dominated by Democrats, has held his office for 24 years.
He went to the White House with other sheriffs to meet with then President Donald Trump, served last year as the honorary state chair of Trump’s re-election campaign and has been vocal about illegal immigration.
“I want to focus on Bristol County,” Bernier said.
He said the Ash Street Jail, built in the 1880s, was supposed to be closed under former sheriff David Nelson and has become a “money pit” with few inmates.
While incarcerated, individuals need to have rehabilitation programs to avoid recidivism, Bernier said.
Fighting the drug problem, Bernier said, will lead to lower crime in the county instead of perpetuating “the revolving door,” he said.
Bernier said that, as a prosecutor, he knows “some people need to be in jail,” but he has also visited the jail and has seen the other side. He said he also wants to hire more correctional officers.
Hodgson, appointed to office in 1997 by then-Gov. William Weld, has won re-election four times. In 2016, he ran unopposed for his current six-year term. In 2010, he won a competitive match against former state Rep. John Quinn, a Dartmouth Democrat.
Hodgson says he will run again and welcomes competition.
“I think competition is good,” he said, adding that he will make a formal announcement after the holidays.
Hodgson was a former Maryland police officer and New Bedford city councilor before he became sheriff.
While he has grabbed national attention for his views on illegal immigration and support of Trump, Hodgson said many people do not realize illegal immigration impacts public safety in the county and the state.
Hodgson also said his office has several programs aimed at rehabilitating individuals in jail and plans on instituting more.