As the primary campaign for Lee County Sheriff entered its final days, incumbent Carmine Marceno went negative against his GOP challenger.
Mailers struck Jim Leavens for a recession-era home foreclosure. It also suggests Leavens, who worked at the Sheriff’s Office 1988 to 2018, had a less-than-spotless record.
“Jim Leavens violated Sheriff’s Department policies for handling dangerous inmates, putting employees and the public at risk, and made threats against employees who called out his violation of safety standards,” the mailer reads.
But at the Leavens camp, the negative advertising coming from Marceno revealed weakness.
“We take this desperate attack as an indicator that the voters of Lee County have seen through the shallow facade of Carmine Marceno and are choosing Jim Leavens to be the next sheriff of Lee County,” reads a statement from Leavens’ campaign.
Call it an exclamation point on a controversial Sheriff election. Marceno faces his first actual vote on Tuesday since being appointed by then-Gov. Rick Scott to fill out former Sheriff Mike Scott’s fourth term after his 2018 retirement. He had served as Sheriff Scott’s Undersheriff but had only been with the department since 2013.
Leavens feels his experience beats Marceno’s any day, having retired as a Major after serving in Lee County in every department from corrections to homicide to internal affairs.
But Marceno has also battled a series of negative headlines. Some involved run of the mill issues like decisions to cut funding on popular programs. But some were personal, like when texts surfaced of him demanding his now-ex get an abortion.
More recently, a candidate for Lee County Commission filed an ethics complaint against Marceno regarding a trip to a Tallahassee retirement party that the Sheriff categorized as “career development” for himself and six deputies.
Leavens hopes that creates a climate where Republican voters choose change in the Aug. 18 primary.
At the same time, Marceno still enjoys a hefty cash advantage. Leavens has raised $107,951 for the race, solid for a first time candidate. But it’s a fraction of the $510,150 reported by Marceno, and the Sheriff’s affiliated political committee Conservative Champion Leaders, which pulled in another $494,352.
Lee voters have shown a willingness to fire Sheriffs before, voting two of the last three out at the ballot box.