Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister re-elected after challenger Gary Pruitt fails to qualify

Chronister raised millions for the bid, and didn't need most of it.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister will get another four-year term after challenger Gary Pruitt failed to qualify for the race.

The qualifying deadline came and went Friday at noon without Pruitt paying the qualifying fee or submitting petitions in lieu of the fee. Without any other candidates in the race, Chronister will be re-elected without opposition.

It’s not surprising, given the uphill battle that Pruitt, a Democrat, would have faced against the incumbent Republican. Chronister raised more than $1 million for his campaign and had more than $2 million available in his affiliated political committee, Friends of Chad Chronister.

Chronister also recently ranked No. 1 on Florida Politics’ list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians, a ranking cultivated by political consultants, strategists, and other insiders from both sides of the political aisle in the Tampa Bay area.

Chronister had faced Pruitt before, defeating him in 2018 with nearly 55% of the vote and again in 2020 in addition to topping a no-party candidate, Ron McMullen.

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.

Chronister was first appointed Sheriff in 2017 by then-Gov. Rick Scott.

His prominence in Tampa Bay area politics comes because of — or to some, in spite of — bold moves Chronister has taken to protect public safety.

Worrying criminals were not being prosecuted for their crimes, Chronister supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ removal of former Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren. Some saw it as a surprising move by Chronister, who is known for defying partisanship, reaching across the aisle and building meaningful relationships that transcend party loyalty. Agree with him or not, Chronister’s decision in that case was based not on politics, but on his commitment to public safety.

While he told the Tampa Bay Times in an interview after the controversial suspension that he appreciated Warren’s passion for criminal justice, he was troubled by his pledges not to pursue certain crimes. DeSantis said he suspended Warren based on promises not to prosecute violations of the state’s restrictive abortion ban or ban on gender-affirming care for minors.

Crime in Hillsborough is down 15%, inmates at the county jail have access to the largest mental health facility in the state, and Chronister launched this year a new program training inmates for jobs—vocational or those that require college-level classes—after they’ve completed their sentences. This strategy aids in reducing recidivism.

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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