SPOKANE, Wash. -

The battle between the two men running for Spokane sheriff is heating up after challenger Douglas Orr was told he's won the endorsement of the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff's Association.

It's the first time the deputy sheriff's association has endorsed a newcomer challenging a sitting sheriff.

Orr has picked up a very significant political victory but Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says the vote wasn't legitimate.

Orr, a Spokane Police Major Crimes detective, faces an uphill battle unseating Knezovich but Thursday his campaign took a big step forward.                      

"They interviewed the both of us and I am humbled and I am pleased to announce this morning that they have given me their endorsement to be their next sheriff," Orr said.

By a vote of 56 to 50 the association gave their support to Orr in the upcoming election.

"I noticed they are dissatisfied with their response to property crimes, as property crimes begin to climb and  are much greater to comparable counties. They've lost faith in their current sheriff and are looking for a greater response," Orr added.

Knezovich wasted no time firing back, saying Thursday only half of the deputy's association had a chance to vote and many didn't know it was happening. He also disputes Orr's claim about property crimes.

"For Mr. Orr to say that, he knows that is disingenuous. That is not true. We formed a burglary task force in 2012 and took residential burglary down and it's still down 27 percent," Knezovich said.

Knezovich has also been criticized for firing a number of deputies since he took office including Todd Saunders Thursday afternoon.

"I think what he wants to do is fair and just, it's how he does it," Orr said, adding the sheriff is too quick to fire people and has cost the county money in wrongful termination claims.

Knezovich said he's not willing to trade accountability for a union's endorsement.

"Back in January of 2013 I was warned if I didn't back off the legislation that said deputies shouldn't lie and they shouldn't commit crimes on duty that they were coming after me. Well this is part of that process," he said.

Voters won't have to wait long to weigh in on these two candidates. Orr and Knezovich face off in the August primary.