After 15-years of controversy, voters get a chance to throw the bums out at the sheriff’s office

For the first time since the 2004 election, St Johns County voters will have a real chance to decide what direction the office of sheriff will take.  So far, two partisan candidates have come forward and vie for leadership of one the largest budgeted agencies in county government, and they are busy raising money to publicize their campaigns.  Big money, and even dark money, are already in the mix.

St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Rob Hardwick, who is the current sheriff’s hand-picked successor, faces former Director of the Office of the Sheriff, Chris Strickland, in what is lined up to be a closed Republican Primary Election on August 18, 2020.  Historic City News readers will have until July 20, 2020 to register or change party affiliation before the election.

Strickland has already reported $ 143,135.54 from cash and in-kind donations.  The next financial reporting date is Thursday, October 10, 2019 which will reveal all amounts collected in September.  Thursday’s report will be the first financial report for Hardwick.

  • According to Florida Politics, an informed source stated that Hardwick will report a haul of $186,124.  The endorsed candidate collected checks from the political establishment in Northeast Florida, including:
  • Marty Fiorentino whose Fiorentino Group in Jacksonville has lobbied for St Johns County
  • Jacksonville shopping center developer Toney Sleiman,
  • The Jacksonville pari-mutuel gambling families Shelton and Korman , who operated the three dog tracks on the Jacksonville greyhound circuit, converted to Best Bet poker and off-track-betting venues.

Because of one candidate, Tom Reynolds of St Augustine Beach who is running without party affiliation, only Republican voters will decide who the next sheriff will be, and it will be decided in the closed August Primary.  Reynolds, who first registered in July 2017 then withdrew four-months later, re-registered on September 24, 2018.  Even if additional Republican candidates come forward in the sheriff’s race, so long as Reynolds, or another candidate without party affiliation, or a candidate running as a Democrat, remains in the race, the Primary Election will be closed.

Both Hardwick and Strickland are solid GOP candidates, but one clearly is the choice of the establishment.  Qualifying week is from noon, June 8, 2020 – noon, June 12, 2020.  Qualifying papers will be accepted beginning May 25, 2020 – pursuant to Section 99.061(8), F.S.

Editorially, Historic City News prefers to see Open Primaries, where all voters will be counted in the decision — whether Democrat, Independent, or registered to vote with a minor party.  Should Reynolds withdraw again, or fail to qualify, the Primary Election will be deemed to be an “Open” or “Universal Primary Election”.

Quotes in this article appeared in Florida Politics. Used with permission, Peter Schorsch, Publisher.  Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. All content is owned by Extensive Enterprises Media. All Rights Reserved.