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In Tight Race For Broward Sheriff Tony Declares Victory Over Israel

Some of the mailers voters received ahead of the Aug. 18 election in the race for Broward County Sheriff.
Caitie Switalski
Some of the mailers voters received ahead of the Aug. 18 election in the race for Broward County Sheriff.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony took home the most votes in one of Broward County's most closely-watched races Tuesday.

With a narrow 4,000 vote lead over his opponent, former Sheriff Scott Israel, Tony declared an early victory in the sheriff's race before all the votes were in late Tuesday night.

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“I am deeply honored that Democratic voters have chosen me to lead the Broward Sheriff's Office into a brighter, safer future," Tony said in his victory statement. "We've come a long way in the last eighteen months, but there is still much work to be done. Together, we're reforming the Sheriff's Office, promoting good deputies and keeping our communities safer by embracing police reform. As your Sheriff, I will work tirelessly to make this department a model for how a public safety agency can be effective, transparent, and accountable to our community. Let's keep moving forward."

Tony is favored to beat Republican candidate H. Wayne Clark and Independent candidate Charles Whatley in the Nov. 3 general election, given the heavily Democratic makeup of Broward County.

This race has been contentious ever since former Sheriff Scott Israel was removed from office in January 2019 by then newly-elected Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Israel was very close behind Tony at the polls — taking home more than 35 percent of the Democratic vote. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

DeSantis cited "neglect of duty" and "incompetence" for removing Israel, following the 2018 school shooting in Parkland. Israel was also heavily criticized after the 2017 Fort Lauderdale airport shooting, where five people died.

Gov. DeSantis appointed Tony, a former Coral Springs Police Sergeant, to fill out the rest of Israel's term, making him Broward's first Black Sheriff.

Tony initially said he would not run for office, but declared his intentions to run less than a month into the job.

"If I walk away from this place in 2020 then there is no guarantee that the visions and effort I put forth will be sustained by the next administration," he told WLRN in February 2019.

Meanwhile, Israel has been fighting, through lawsuits, to get his job back ever since he was removed by the governor. The Florida Senate Rules Committee recommended that Israel's removal from office be upheld at a special meeting last October.

In his first year on the job Tony made several changes at BSO, including expanding the training team, and expanding active shooter training for deputies that was criticized as lacking after the Parkland shooting. He also unveiled an enhanced Real Time Crime Center to monitor cameras at public school and administrative buildings.

A string of cases in 2019 involving controversial use-of-force showed some of Tony's first tests with public criticism. In response, Tony fired several deputies against the recommendations of the agency's Professional Standards Committee.

Later, in the course of campaigning, Tony was c riticized for a homicide when he was 14 in Philadelphia — a killing he was never convicted of any wrongdoing but left off of law enforcement job applications. He used the incident in campaign flyers to show his personal experience with gun violence. He was also scrutinized for racy photos that surfaced during the campaign and claims he also left past drug use off of job applications.

Israel focused his campaign messaging on returning people's 2016 vote to them.

"Not only was my vote stolen, and my livelihood taken from me, but your vote was stolen," Israel said during a candidate forum earlier this month. "We need to reclaim our vote."

A third contending Democrat in the race, Al Pollock, came in third place, taking home just over 11 percent of the Democratic vote. He had the endorsement of the Broward County Sheriff's Office Deputies Association. The union had given Tony a vote of "no confidence" earlier this year, after a dispute over personal protective equipment and Tony's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Caitie Switalski is a rising senior at the University of Florida. She's worked for WFSU-FM in Tallahassee as an intern and reporter. When she's in Gainesville for school, Caitie is an anchor and producer for local Morning Edition content at WUFT-FM, as well as a digital editor for the station's website. Her favorite stories are politically driven, about how politicians, laws and policies effect local communities. Once she graduates with a dual degree in Journalism and English,Caitiehopes to make a career continuing to report and produce for NPR stations in the sunshine state. When she's not following what's happening with changing laws, you can catchCaitielounging in local coffee shops, at the beach, or watching Love Actually for the hundredth time.