Although qualifying for election to hold county offices is held from noon, June 8, 2020, through noon, June 12, 2020, Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes told local Historic City News reporters that, pursuant to Section 99.061(8), F.S., her office technically began accepting qualifying papers beginning May 25, 2020, even though the office was closed for Memorial Day. Today Chris Strickland and Rob Hardwick each appeared at her office, eager to get their paperwork in the queue to run for sheriff.
Judicial candidates, the public defender, state attorney, and congress are governed by slightly different rules on when and where they file, the local Supervisor of Elections office files the qualifying papers for county constitutional officers, like the sheriff, school board members, special district offices, municipalities, and community development districts during the June 8-12 window.
What does it cost to qualify for sheriff?
If you are running with party affiliation, as are Strickland and Hardwick, the “qualifying fee” is $8,791.26. A portion of that fee will make its way back to the St Johns County Republican Party. If you are running without party affiliation, the qualifying fee is reduced to $5,860.84. Those fees represent a percentage of the base salary of the sheriff, whose paycheck goes up or down based on the fluctuation in the county’s population. In St Johns County, the sheriff’s base salary is $146,521.
Of course, neither Strickland nor Hardwick paid those fees. The state allows candidates to collect a seat-specific number of petitions signed by registered voters eligible to vote in the election. Although there can be thousands required, those petitions are individually verified by the Elections Office. If the specified number of petitions are collected and verified before the cutoff date, the candidate’s name may appear printed on the ballot in lieu of the monetary qualifying fee.
As the dust settles today, there are two opponents for the office of sheriff, but that is subject to change. Both Strickland and Hardwick are running as Republican candidates; which means that all St Johns County voters would be able to vote their choice between the two on August 18, 2020, whether they registered as Republicans, Democrats, Independents, minor party voters, or those registered without party affiliation.
However, if at any time before noon on June 12, 2020, a non-Republican candidate, including a write-in, qualifies to run for sheriff, that candidate will close the Primary Election. In that case, only registered Republican voters will decide whether Strickland or Hardwick advances to the November 3, 2020, General Election.
Note: The candidate is not “qualified” until the close of the qualifying period next month, despite some political advertising seen incorrectly using the term on social media.