Sheriffs split between Loranne Ausley, Corey Simon in SD 3
Corey Simon notches up another career win.

Ausley simon
Simon, the Republican challenger, earned the majority of the endorsements.

North Florida Sheriffs are picking sides in the narrow race for Senate District 3.

Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley has received endorsements from two local Sheriffs in recent weeks as she hopes to retain her pivotal seat. But Republican challenger and former Florida State University football star Corey Simon recently announced endorsements from eight Sheriffs, leaving only three of the district’s Sheriffs on the fence in what could be the closest race in the Florida Senate.

Ausley rolled out the race’s first Sheriff endorsement more than two weeks ago, when Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil threw his support behind the Tallahassee lawmaker in a radio ad. On Thursday, Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young endorsed the incumbent Senator.

Both Sheriffs serve Democrat-majority counties and are the only two Democratic Sheriffs in the district. But both have also endorsed Republicans this cycle, with McNeil supporting Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody and Young endorsing Gov. Ron DeSantis. That makes their support for Ausley significant in the hard-fought contest.

“Law enforcement depends on the support of lawmakers, and Senator Ausley has always had our back,” Young said in a statement.

“Whenever I call, she is there ready to fight for us. Under Loranne’s leadership, police have received more funding to keep us safe while patrolling our communities. Senator Ausley is a true public servant who has earned my respect and I look forward to working with her in her next term as our State Senator.”

Simon, who also hails from Tallahassee, announced his slate of law enforcement endorsements Friday. On his side are Dixie County Sheriff Darby Butler, Madison County Sheriff David Harper, Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison, Lafayette County Sheriff Brian Lamb, Wakulla County Sheriff Jared Miller, Liberty County Sheriff Buddy Money, Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett and Suwannee County Sheriff Sam St. John.

“Now more than ever, North Floridians deserve leaders who will fight to protect our communities,” Lamb said. “I support Corey Simon because I know he will always have our backs.”

Added Miller: “Corey Simon will fight to ensure North Florida law enforcement officers have the resources we need to keep your families and our neighborhoods safe.”

SD 3 covers Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor and Wakulla counties. The only Sheriffs who have not endorsed in the race are Franklin County Sheriff A.J. “Tony” Smith, Hamilton County Sheriff J. Harrell Reid and Jefferson County Sheriff Alfred Kenneth “Mac” McNeill Jr.

Reid told Florida Politics the candidates had contacted him but he does not typically make endorsements. He noted Ausley has supported his Sheriff’s Office.

Simon also earned support from the Florida Association of State Troopers.

“Your combination of fiscal conservatism and compassion for your fellow man as Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Florida make you uniquely qualified to represent the people of North Florida,” Troop B Director Kin Weaver said.

“The trust and support you have earned from Governor DeSantis and Senate leadership … leave us confident that you will advocate for policies that support and enhance the law enforcement profession, and by extension, keep our communities safe.”

The flurry of endorsements come with less than two weeks till Election Day. Both Ausley and Simon have hit the airwaves with ads new and old. The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee released an ad targeting Ausley as extreme, and Ausley has an ad out touting support from voters of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

Ausley and top Senate Democrats have hit the campaign trail with a five-day bus tour of SD 3. Democrats hope to reach rural voters with the tour and have shared stops with figures like Bakari Sellers and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Val Demings.

With the district’s expansion into a total of 13 counties, geographically the largest in the state, it grew from a seat that voted for President Biden by 9 percentage points in 2020 into one he would have carried by only 3 points.

Ausley served in the House from 2000 to 2008 and from 2016 to 2020 and was elected to the Senate in 2020. Both live in Tallahassee.

Simon was an All-American during FSU’s championship season in 1999. He also played in the National Football League and has since been a community volunteer and CEO of Volunteer Florida under DeSantis, who is also endorsing him.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

One comment

  • Hope

    October 30, 2022 at 10:14 am

    Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil should be doing his job since there have been numerous deaths in his Leon County jail lately and crime continuing to skyrocket. Especially, after Loranne’s horrendous mailer putting shooting targets on children and Corey Simon in a mailer. She will be unable to recover from that misstep.

    She isn’t the only one making missteps in her campaign in Tallahassee. Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey running for re-election is making misstep after misstep with negative campaigning and even reports of bullying. What is even more disturbing is that developers (Grow Tallahassee & Premier Construction) and even the publisher at Tallahassee Reports is joining in on the bullying. The mayor was unable to place first in the primary and is desperate, but resorting to bullying and cultivating a culture of bullying is not anyway to run a campaign. The mayor isn’t bullying a Republican opponent, he is bullying a fellow Democratic Party opponent and a fellow Democratic Party city (female) commissioner.

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