ORANGE PARK – In what may have been the most expensive political race in Clay County history, Clay voters elected Darryl Daniels, a retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office jails chief, as the new …
ORANGE PARK – In what may have been the most expensive political race in Clay County history, Clay voters elected Darryl Daniels, a retired Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office jails chief, as the new sheriff in Tuesday’s primary. A total of $341,513 in cash and in-kind contributions was collected among the four candidates
The race was open to all voters since there was not a declared write-in for the November election, so with 35.42 percent of the electorate behind him, Daniels becomes the first candidate to fill the sheriff’s shoes in 12 years as Sheriff Rick Beseler steps down after his fourth term. Daniels will be Clay County’s first African American sheriff.
Daniels beat out fellow Republican candidate Craig Aldrich, the retired Clay County undersheriff. Aldrich offered stiff competition as Daniels’ toughest opponent, losing by just under six percent of the vote. Daniels also defeated James Jett, former county clerk of courts and Harold Rutledge, a former law enforcement officer and county commissioner.
“Now the hard work begins,” Daniels wrote on social media. “Our win will be making Clay County a better place for all. We will be out in the community and Sheriff's Office. Please let us know what we can do to make things better. Thank you and let’s get to work.”
Voters from Clay and Duval similarly flocked to social media to express their excitement.
“Congratulations,” said Sandy Roberts Russell of Green Cove Springs. “The only thing that I want is big city ideas on how to handle the big city crime coming to the county.”
Daniels has yet to identify specific initiatives he will take in November. Instead, Daniels focused on walking neighborhoods to increase community engagement with the sheriff’s office, something he falsely touted he would pioneer during a June 24 debate.
During the campaign, Daniels was able to garner support from influential voters. Greg Clary, a member of the Clay County Development Authority, said he supported Daniels because he believes in the initiatives Daniels has proposed.
“I agree with all of the initiatives, from community policing and bridging the gap between the citizenry and policing,” Clary said. “It’s a lot of work to make sure that community relationships get stronger and stronger.”
Clary also said he supported Daniels because he believes he will be tough on crime.
Daniels also promised to make schools safer, likewise without offering initiatives or actions he would take to do so once elected. Daniels instead preferred to talk about his accomplishments and qualifications for sheriff at debates.
“We’ll see if he follows through with his promises he’s made to the county – time will tell, four years will tell,” Rutledge said. “I think if he does, then this will become an even better county. I pray for him and wish him the best of luck.”
Although all sheriff candidates brought in substantial sums of money from campaign contributions, Daniels exceeded all other candidates with more than $141,000 raised since January 2015.
Since January 2015, Daniels spent $101,000 of his contributions on the political consultation firm Reliant Florida in, a substantially higher sum than any other Reliant Florida clients in Clay County.
A longtime resident of Clay County, Daniels moved to the area after he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 17.
Daniels was honorably discharged eight years later and soon started work in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the patrol division.
During his career, Daniels rose through the ranks as a sergeant, lieutenant, assistant chief and division chief.
Daniels did not return several calls by deadline.
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