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Posted on September 19, 2016
The race for Leon County Sheriff is shaping up to be one of the most interesting local races on the November ballot. The race offers the voters a choice between a Republican, a Democrat, an incumbent Democrat running as an NPA and a Democrat running as an NPA.
Over the last three days, campaign tactics by three of the candidates provided a look into how they plan to make their case to the voting public.
Mr. McNeil has been very blunt about his strategy. In his advertising, Mr. McNeil pushes the fact that Leon County has been number one in crime for the last two years. He also reminds voters that the incumbent, Sheriff Mike Wood, was appointed by a Republican governor. Over 53% of Leon County registered voters are Democrats, while 28% are Republicans.
Mr. McNeil advanced the crime-rate part of his argument again this past weekend by running an advertisement on Tallahassee.com which made potential voters aware of how the Leon County crime rate impacts the local economy.
Mr. Strickland, who is running as a Republican, unveiled a campaign video of Machelle Campbell, former Sheriff Larry Campbell’s widow, endorsing Mr. Strickland for the position her husband held for 18 years.
Mr. Strickland, who sees the rare opportunity of winning an election running as a Republican in Leon County, is seeking to build support with moderate Democrats and independents. If he holds Republicans in his column, Strickland could win depending on how the other three Democrats split the remaining votes.
Sheriff Mike Wood
Mr. Wood announced the support of a number of elected leaders in a press conference on Monday. The elected leaders included City Commissioners Nancy Miller and Gil Ziffer and County Commissioners Jane Sauls, Mary Ann Lindley, and Bryan Desloge.
City Commissioner Gil Ziffer spoke at the press conference and said “We all agree that the job of safeguarding our community shouldn’t come down to the political party we most prefer but rather the person best equipped to do the job.”
TR talked to a a number of local politicos, who wished to remain anonymous, about this race, and specifically the Mike Wood endorsements. Here are their impressions.
A number of people felt this race could end up driving a wedge between blacks and whites in the local Democratic party. It was striking that not one black elected official from the city or county commissions came out to endorse Mike Wood.
“Wood has written off the black vote and the press conference was an attempt to appeal to white Democrats and Republicans,” said one consultant. “It was a bold move by candidate who understands the numbers.”
The experts found it shocking that elected Democrat leaders would publicly come out against McNeil. One consultant said, “they must really not like Walt McNeil.”
Another person thought it was hypocritical for these leaders to now be calling for non-partisanship in the Sheriff’s races when some of the elected leaders stoked partisan division to get elected.
A political expert said “this race is uncomfortable for a number of people in the community. Usually the Democrat establishment gets behind one candidate and others are discouraged against running to avoid public disagreements. Maddox leaving the Superintendent race made that race a lot easier, but this Sheriff’s race will create wounds that the local Democratic political establishment is not used to dealing with.”
And finally, one veteran political operative told TR ” Miller and Ziffer just guaranteed viable African-American opponents in their races in two years.”
Candidate Tommy Mills, who came close to defeating Larry Campbell four years ago, will be featured in future reports about the race.