Big money finds St. Johns, Clay Sheriff’s candidates
St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Rob Hardwick is the establishment man in SJC Sheriff's race.

Rob Hardwick
Stakes are high and fundraising is active.

Candidates are beginning to report their September fundraising in races for Sheriff in St. Johns and Clay County, and what’s clear is some consultants will have budgets to work with.

In St. Johns County, an informed source tells us that St. Augustine Beach Police Chief Rob Hardwick will report a haul of $186,124.

Hardwick, the endorsed candidate of incumbent David Shoar, collected checks from bellwethers of the political establishment in Northeast Florida, including Marty Fiorentino (whose Fiorentino Group has lobbied for the county), Jacksonville developer Toney Sleiman, and the Shelton/Korman families of bestbet fame.

Whether this is the hot first month that scares other prospective candidates out of the race, or a harbinger of continued big months, time will tell.

Shoar, in a 2016 campaign devoid of serious challengers, raised $250,000. In three and a half weeks of fundraising, Hardwick is almost there.

Expect his campaign team to push a “good guy” narraive, noting his history as a combat vet. And expect well-timed endorsements along the way.

Chief Hardwick’s path to the Sheriff’s Office is not unobstructed.

Hardwick will face one opponent who has a viable campaign structure: Chris Strickland, who has raised just over $142,000 but has roughly $60,000 on hand.

Strickland raised just $3,616 in September, and spent $5,467, with $2,500 of that going to consulting.

NPA Tom Reynolds has not raised any money in the many months his campaign account has been open.

St. Johns County, with nearly 194,000, is a Republican sinecure. Both Hardwick and Strickland are GOP, but one clearly is the choice of the establishment.

The Sheriff’s race in neighboring Clay County is also slated for 2020, and business is picking up there also, as incumbent Darryl Daniels awaits the results of what has become a protracted Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into alleged abuses of power.

The leading fundraiser at the moment: Mike Taylor, who had $64,000 raised ($25,000 self-financed) after his first month in the race.

Taylor reports that he will have $100,000 between campaign and political committee funds, putting him far ahead of the other two filed candidates.

Ben Carroll, a veteran of the Clay Sheriff’s Office and a former police chief, has raised just over $30,000, and is already spending. He has roughly $19,000 on hand, but raised just over $3,600 in August.

September numbers for Carroll are not live yet.

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 $22,000, but only about $1,500 of that came in August, the last month for which he has data.

Candidates have until Oct. 10 to report fundraising.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Denise H

    October 4, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    I would put my money on Chris Strickland and Mike Taylor for the win at this point, unless something drastically happens. I have a proven track record of being right on campaign elections.

  • Erica Pannis

    October 5, 2019 at 7:32 am

    “The Establishment man” is just that! Hardwick will be Shoar 2.0. He can have all of Shoar’s dirty money and shady friends but he can’t get away from the fact that HE ISN’T QUALIFIED to run an agency comprised of 680 personnel and a budget of 80 million dollars when he has only been a 15 officer beach PD chief. Look at the financial mis-management and scandals of this current sheriff. Sorry, we need change, accountability and experience. I’m going with Strickland.

  • Dennis Watkins

    October 5, 2019 at 7:34 am

    Why is Hardwick in the picture and no one else? Great “impartiality” on your part Florida Politics! And I agree, he isn’t at all qualified for the position. The Shoar machine is running the show and we have already seen it. Don’t need the sequel.

  • David W.

    October 5, 2019 at 7:47 am

    Met both Mr. Strickland and Hardwick, Mr. Stricklands platform and progressive thinking caught my ear. Although both are impressive on paper, I’m sold on Mr. Strickland at this point. Keep up the great work Mr. Gancarski, your work is awesome.

  • Marshall B

    October 5, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    I know Robbie. Good guy but not qualified unfortunately. Both Clay and St Johns suffer from the same problem. They need CHANGE. Anyone backing Hardwick is pretty much backing Shoar and for a corrupt administration to continue. Didn’t he just lose a million dollars? As far as Clay voters go you all know there is no integrity there with Daniels.

  • Tricia Mcavey

    October 5, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Just because you raise a lot of money in a short period does not mean you’ll be a good sheriff. Shoar thinks you can buy the position but in this case it will be experience that will win and that means Chris Strickland, we’ve had enough with the corruption..time to get an honest man in there!

    • Gina D

      October 5, 2019 at 7:59 pm

      Corruption, and cover ups!! 16years worth and people in this county have had enough of it all. Alot of people are happy David is retiring and are not interested in his protege. SAY NO TO SHOAR 2.0

  • Marshall

    October 5, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    “Chief Hardwick’s path to the Sheriff’s Office is not unobstructed”. I would say the biggest Obstruction is the man has no experience!! How many cops are on a Beach police force 12-15? Before that I think he was a sergeant with St Augustine city police and guess who his boss was ??? David Shoar. I like that shoar 2.0 comment! Thats a good one!

  • Gail

    October 7, 2019 at 6:35 am

    Taking money from dog abusers like BestBet is just disgusting and unacceptable. Appears Hardwick doesn’t care. And lobbyists? Ugh. Please.

  • Carol Bassett

    October 9, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    I just wrote to you Mr. Gancarski, I hope you see my email. This beach police chief is a scoundrel who is taking money from people who mistreat dogs!! What a monster. Corrupt corrupt!! He should give it all back. let it be known politicians should NEVER, especially law enforcement ones, take money from best bet gaming, aka dog abusers!

Comments are closed.


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