Chad Chronister poised for easy reelection to Hillsborough County Sheriff

Chronister and his affiliated political committee have spent more than $1.2 million on the race.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is likely to earn another term as the county’s top cop. The Republican Sheriff faces two challengers in Tuesday’s election, a Democrat and an Independent.

Chronister already easily survived a Primary Election that saw partisan barbs thrown his way in an attempt to paint him as a RINO — Republican In Name Only. Chronister emerged in the race against Charles Boswell with an overwhelming 67% of the vote.

Now heading into the General Election, the campaign smears have been far less prevalent.

He now faces Democrat Gary Pruitt, who Chronister beat four years ago with 55% of the vote, and independent candidate Ron McMullen.

Neither mounted much of a campaign.

As of Oct. 16, Chronister had raised more than $522,000 in his campaign alone. His affiliated political committee, Friends of Chad Chronister, raked in another $1 million-plus. Between the two, more than $1.2 million poured into the market to defend Chronister’s seat.

Meanwhile, McMullen raised less than $65,000 and, as of Oct. 16, had spent just over $50,000. Pruitt raised less than $15,000, raising less than $1,000, sometimes nothing, in every finance reporting period since June.

Ahead of the Primary Election, Pruitt somewhat aligned himself with Boswell, often sharing Boswell’s grievances with Chronister on his own social media channels.

Boswell, a former Hillsborough County Sheriffs detective, attempted to paint Chronister as a corrupt cop and a faux conservative, with supporters often attacking Chronister for his past support of Democrats, including a $15,000 contribution to former President Barack Obama in 2012.

Boswell served 25 years with HCSO, but he was forced out of his position after disciplinary action dating back to 2014 triggered a demotion, reduction in pay, suspensions, and, ultimately, his job.

Several allegations against him were sustained, including noncompliance with a direct order of a superior, conduct unbecoming an officer and discourtesy.

Boswell claimed his demotion and disciplinary action were retaliation for refusing to remain complacent in a coerced confession on a murder investigation he worked.

He named Chronister in a lawsuit over the allegations.

The allegations didn’t gain traction in the Primary Election and they went even quieter after Chronister dispatched his GOP opponent in August.

McMullen has been similarly quiet, dropping less than $20,000 on advertising and outreach since the General Election campaign push began.

Meanwhile, Chronister has run his campaign void of partisanship and focused on his track record.

He expected attacks, and there have been some, but Chronister vowed only to respond when necessary.

“Their focus is on, let’s just attack the Sheriff,” Chronister previously told Florida Politics. “McMullen talks about response times. We improved response times by 13 minutes over the last year.”

That improvement was driven by Chronister’s addition of a new district and new deputy hires that put more resources into communities where deputies were having trouble getting to calls in a timely manner.

Overall, his record is robust, even with only three years under his belt.

Chronister has led a series of reforms within the agency including diversion programs, enhanced mental health response, more community policing and engagement and increased transparency.

He has directed resources toward combating human trafficking, a problem Chronister notes is particularly pervasive in Tampa, the county’s largest city.

Chronister also launched a heroin task force as part of the department’s response to the opioid epidemic. The group works with homicide detectives and looks into whether or not a dealer, provided it can be proven they provided the drug, can be charged in relation to an overdose death.

Chronister also mandated 40 additional hours of officer mental health training, including on PTSD and drug-induced mental health issues, so officers can better differentiate between a combative suspect and one who is experiencing a mental health crisis.

He also implemented a collaboration between deputies and social workers to connect offenders with services to help get them on their feet, clean and sober, and away from crime.

With two lesser-funded candidates going up against an incumbent with a massive fundraising machine at his back, it’s hard to see how Chronister walks away Tuesday night with anything other than a commanding victory.

The only hitch come Tuesday could come thanks to the top of the ticket. While Chronister has avoided any perceived allegiance to President Donald Trump, the R behind his name could draw cross-party support away from him as Democrats look to vote blue all the way down-ballot. But even that seems a stretch in this race.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704