In an effort to counter Republican Ron DeSantis’ attempts to make Tallahassee’s crime problems an issue in this year’s gubernatorial contest, Democrat Andrew Gillum has enlisted the help of five Florida sheriffs, all Democrats, to counter the claims that Gillum is weak on crime.
Meanwhile, DeSantis rolled out his own law enforcement endorsement from the Florida Police Benevolent Association
In a written statement issued Wednesday, Gillum’s campaign highlighted what it calls the Tallahassee mayor’s “commitment to working with law enforcement to root out crime and corruption in Tallahassee and how he significantly reduced violent crime by 24 percent.”
As Tallahasee mayor, Gillum has been blamed for the city’s high crime rate. While Tallahassee’s crime rate is the highest in the state, the city has seen a drop in the number of crimes.
The five current and former sheriff’s announced their endorsement of Gillum for governor, including Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil, who used to serve as Tallahassee’s police chief.
“As sheriff of Leon County, I have personally worked with Andrew, and have watched him work to build a safer community for our kids, work side by side with law enforcement to tackle violent crime, and stand up for common sense gun reform,” McNeil said. “As governor, I know he will carry the same level of integrity and dedication to the safety of all Floridians.”
Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings also endorsed Gillum.
“After 37 years in law enforcement, I know what it takes to keep our communities secure,” Demmings said. “Mayor Gillum brought the police and community together, reduced crime and took on the gun lobby to keep our families safer. I took an oath to protect the public, and that is why I support Andrew Gillum for governor.”
Also announcing their endorsements of Gillum are Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young, Osceola County Sheriff Russell H. Gibson and Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.
But, while Gillum was being endorsed by five Democratic sheriffs, the DeSantis campaign announced it had received the support of the Florida PBA, the state’s largest professional association of law enforcement officers.
“From time to time, an individual emerges, whether a politician or a business person, that has a passion to help police,” said John Kazanjian, president of the Florida PBA. “As we’ve seen in the past few years, police have been scrutinized for doing their job and ‘kicked to the curb’ by special interest groups, media and politicians which have resulted in the rise of law enforcement officers being killed or assaulted in the line of duty. The men and women of law enforcement want to tell Floridians that Ron DeSantis has our backs. That’s why I’m proud to announce that we have his back.”
“As a former prosecutor who has worked closely with law enforcement, I have seen first-hand the commitment and dedication they have to protecting our communities,” DeSantis said in accepting the PBA endorsement. “Thanks to the hard work of our police and law enforcement, we are at a 47-year low in our crime rate, and we need to continue to build on that success. As Governor, I will always stand with our law enforcement community and work with them to keep Florida safe every single day.”