Chad Chronister to seek re-election, build on ‘historic results’ at HCSO

Chronister will face a familiar foe for his third campaign for Hillsborough Sheriff.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister will seek another term.

This will be Chronister’s third election campaign since being appointed Sheriff in 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Scott. Chronister was subsequently elected by voters in 2018 and re-elected in 2022.

“Serving as this community’s Sheriff is an honor, but the historic results we have been able to deliver in terms of preventing and reducing crime, pursuing justice for victims and making criminals accountable are only able to be accomplished through the dedicated efforts by the hard-working men and women of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and our community’s unwavering support,” Chronister said.

“We will remain at the forefront of so many pressing issues like mental health, student safety, human trafficking, fentanyl, online predators, and criminal gangs.”

Chronister has not yet officially filed for the 2024 cycle. But when he does, he’ll face a familiar foe — Democrat Gary Pruitt has filed to run and it will be the second time the two face each other at the ballot box. Chronister dispensed with Pruitt in 2018 with nearly 55% of the vote, and again in 2020 in addition to a no-party candidate, Ron McMullen.

While Chronister has not yet filed and thus, has not filed any finance reports, his political committee, Friends of Chad Chronister, has raised more than 2.25 million since early 2019. The PC has more than $1.1 million available as of the end of December.

To further put his fundraising might into perspective, Chronister raised more than a half million dollars for his official 2020 re-election campaign and more than $800,000 for his first election in 2018. That brought his spending capacity in both cycles to well over $1 million.

There’s no reason to believe Chronister’s fundraising this cycle will be any less prolific. His longtime political advisor, Anthony Pedicini, told Florida Politics last year that the Hillsborough Sheriff once raised $1 million in just one night.

“I remain committed to protecting our most vulnerable, sustaining our community outreach efforts and continuing to transform our policing through technology. We have made tremendous progress ensuring our workforce reflects the community we serve and I will continue to advance and exceed the standards for training while providing our employees with the equipment and tools they need to safeguard themselves and our community for any contingency that may arise,” Chronister said.

“As your Sheriff, my efforts to protect the prosperity of our community by ensuring law and order prevails will always be relentless.”

Chronister remains Hillsborough County’s only Republican constitutional officer. The other four constitutional officers — Clerk of Court, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections and Tax Collector — are all Democrats. The GOP will be looking to change that this cycle after what turned out to be a red wave in Hillsborough County in the 2022 Midterms, even if the expected red wave nationally fizzled.

Throughout his tenure, Chronister has notched a number of accomplishments. He played a crucial role in the pandemic’s early days serving on the now-defunct Emergency Policy Group, which was tasked with setting policy on the pandemic.

While he mostly stuck to the law enforcement perspective on how to enforce policy proposals, he put duty before the politicization of COVID-19. Chronister directed deputies to arrest Brandon pastor Rodney Howard-Browne for continuing to hold crowded in-person services at The River at Tampa Bay church in violation of the county’s then stay-at-home order.

That same year, he also directed the high-profile firing of a 21-year HCSO veteran. Chronister not only fired the deputy for pointing a gun at a suspect’s head, but he also had him arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

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

Chronister also launched a heroine 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.

Chronister has served the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for 31 years. As Sheriff, he remains committed to community policing, according to his campaign announcement, and to furthering a culture of diversity and inclusion — a statement that detracts largely from his political party, which has taken efforts to reduce diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

Chronister has earned a number of accolades for his service, including the University of South Florida President’s Fellow Medallion; the 2023 Housing and Education Alliance HEART for the Homeless Award; the 2023 NAACP Walter Moses Burton Unsung Hero Award; the inaugural 2023 Sheriff’s Hispanic Advisory Council Spirit of Community Award; recognition as the 2022 Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay Great Futures honoree; the Boy Scouts of America’s 2022 Distinguished Citizen Award; the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Memorial Commemoration Committee’s 2020 Robert W. Saunders Award for Distinguished Community Service in the furtherance of Human Rights; and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Tampa Bay’s 2020 Hispanic Prestige Award.

Chronister was ranked No. 3 on Florida Politics’ 2023 list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians.

Chronister also co-chairs the Regional Domestic Security Task Force for Region IV Tampa Bay, and is a council member of the Florida Attorney General’s Statewide Council on Human Trafficking and Chairman of the Criminal Justice Sub-Committee; vice chairman of the Hillsborough County Public Safety Coordinating Council; vice chairman of the Hillsborough County Public Schools Citizen Oversight Committee; and appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to the Florida Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council.

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].


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