Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Thursday blasted Orange County Sheriff candidate Darryl Sheppard for including her picture in campaign materials, saying she has told him to stop using it and wouldn’t back him for dog catcher, “for fear the canines would lodge complaints.”
“He is TOTALLY unfit for the position he seeks, without even mentioning his criminal record,” Demings, a former Orlando Police Chief declared in a Facebook post Thursday morning. “Perhaps he should learn how to OBEY the law become (sic) he TRIES to enforce the law.
Sheppard’s campaign Facebook page includes campaign pictures of him posing with Demings, with Democratic Lieutenant Governor nominee Chris King, and with Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. There also is an upload of what appears to be a campaign leaflet or mailer showing those pictures.
Nelson has endorsed Orlando Police Chief John Mina in the race.
Sheppard was not available Thursday to discuss Demings’ complaint, though a call to his campaign phone led Joe Kilgore to answer and defend the use of the pictures. Kilgore said the materials do not state anything about endorsements and the politicians in the pictures are public figures so that their images are available for public use.
Sheppard presents a unique situation for Orange County Democrats. Sheppard has no background in law enforcement, except for an arrest record of his own. Yet he got on the Nov. 6 ballot as the Democrats’ nominee for Orange County Sheriff because no one else ran for the nomination. Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge has said the party is not backing him.
The race also features retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Jose “Joe” Lopez. Both Mina and Lopez are former Republicans who switched their voter registration to the Democratic Party in 2017 but did so too late to qualify for the 2018 ballot as Democrats. So they’re both running as independents.
There are no Republicans in the race.
Demings is married to the current Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
She responded to Sheppard’s posts of her picture by declaring on her personal Facebook account, “Orange County Sheriff Candidate Darryl Sheppard has decided to use my image in his campaign literature. My campaign reached out to him for the second time and respectfully asked him not to use my image to infer my support for his campaign. Since he refused, I feel compelled to make the following statement:”
And then she used the dog catcher line.
And then she added, “For the record, I am not supporting a candidate in this race.”
Sheppard, as the Democrats’ official nominee, may have an advantage among uninformed voters, as Democrats dominate voter registration in Orange County.
He also has posted unspecified poll results on his campaign’s Facebook page claiming he is leading the race. But then his Facebook page also includes a clearly fake post of a tweet from President Donald Trump in support of Lopez and Mina.
The other two campaigns largely have been trying to ignore him, and Mina’s campaign indicated it intended to continue to do so.
Lopez let loose Thursday.
“Finally Sheppard is being exposed as who he really is. The voters of Orange County are smart. Before you can hold anybody accountable you gotta start with yourself: hold yourself accountable first,” Lopez said.