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Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels. Image via A.G. Gancarski.

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Challengers, cash pile up in Clay Co. Sheriff race

Is the incumbent vulnerable? Looks like it.

Embattled Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, facing an FDLE investigation for abuse of power allegations spanning two counties, has yet to open a r-eelection campaign account.

Should Daniels, a first-term Republican, opt to run for a second term, he will find a crowded and likely well-funded field of primary opponents.

Thus far, two candidates have filed with at least one more expected to enter the race in the coming weeks.

Ben Carroll, a veteran of the Clay Sheriff’s Office and a former police chief, is the clubhouse leader with over $21,000 added to his account in June, his first campaign finance filing.

Of that $21,000, $10,000 was a personal loan from the candidate himself.

A second opponent, Harold Rutledge, a former sergeant with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Clay County Commissioner, currently is executive director for the Florida Public Service Association.

Rutledge has raised just over $13,000.

The Sheriff won a competitive race in 2016. This promises to be competitive also, due to Daniels’ self-inflicted wounds.

A vocal backer of Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2018, Daniels has since been dealing with the aftermath of a workforce romance that led to a yearslong hush money slush fund.

He paid off a former workplace subordinate with whom he had a long-term affair when he was running Duval County’s jail.

The Sheriff accused that subordinate, Cierra Smith, of “stalking” him, a charge that proved groundless.

State Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings have expressed “major concerns” about Daniels continuing in that role, but thus far Gov. Ron DeSantis has avoided taking any action.

Meanwhile, the media narrative festers.

Folio Weekly, an alt-weekly in the Jacksonville market, reveals that Daniels’ call logs and cell phone records document serial philandering, with a report laden with “insiders say” assertions.

Though direct quotes are scant, it is clear by the campaign accounts opening that the buzzards are circling in Green Cove Springs.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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