Fort Lauderdale, Florida — Incumbent Gregory Tony narrowly won the hotly-contested race for the Democratic nomination for Broward County sheriff Tuesday night after a campaign centered on a high school massacre and a shooting decades earlier.
Tony was named sheriff in 2019 after Governor Ron DeSantis fired his predecessor, Scott Israel, over his handling of the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead.
CBS Miami reports that, with 99% of precincts reporting, Tony had 37% of the vote, Israel 35% and retired Broward County Sheriff's Office Colonel Al Pollock 11%. Other candidates all finished with single digit percentages.
Tony issued a statement claiming victory over Israel in the Democratic primary in a county where Democrats hold a 2-1 edge over the GOP in registered voters.
"The Democratic voters of Broward County have spoken and I am deeply honored that they have chosen me to lead the Broward Sheriff's Office into a brighter, safer future! I promise BSO will become the national model for how a public safety agency can be run," Tony said in a statement.
Israel called it a tough loss.
"I want the people to know I poured my heart and soul into being sheriff," he said. "My main focus was keeping kids out of jail. I may not be the sheriff, but I have the best family in the world and I look forward to spending time with them."
Pollock said Sheriff Tony has some bridge building to do.
"He needs trust of the community and employees," Pollock said. "I'm not going away. I will hold law enforcement accountable."
Tony will face Republican primary winner H. Wayne Clark in November.
The Broward County sheriff runs a 6,000-employee operation with a half-billion dollar budget, one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the Southeast.
Tony's campaign was marked by criticism that he had failed to disclose that he fatally shot an 18-year-old in 1993 when he was 14 in Philadelphia. A judge concluded Tony acted in self-defense, but Tony never revealed the shooting to his previous police employer, the governor or the investigators who vetted him for the sheriff's job.
Israel won election twice before he was removed by DeSantis after the Parkland school shooting. Tony, 41, the county's first Black sheriff, is a former sergeant in the suburban Coral Springs Police Department. Tony also ran a consulting company that trained officers to confront active shooters.
Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said in a statement that Tony deserved to be elected.
"Sheriff Tony came into office under circumstances that many questioned," Holness said. "The fact is he performed the job with excellence. He has transformed that department, putting measures in place that holds officers accountable for their actions and making investments in training programs that helps the officers."
Nikolas Cruz, 21, faces the death penalty if convicted of the Stoneman Douglas killings. His lawyers say he would plead guilty in exchange for a life prison sentence, but prosecutors have rejected that.