The last time Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri came before the voters, it was a rough and rumble war with former Police Chief Everett Rice.
The two Republicans spent nearly $700,000 in bashing each other, before Gualtieri had the last laugh, easily vanquished his GOP challenger in the primary before defeating Democrat Scott Swope in the general.
This time around, it looks like much smoother sailing.
Not that it’s been easy being Bob Gualtieri.
As the legislative chair for the Florida Sheriffs Association, Gualtieri has been outspoken in opposing legislation that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry guns. Last month he came under fire from the NRA and other Second Amendment enthusiasts after a quote he gave to the News Service of Florida regarding the proposed open carry legislation.
The sheriff was quoted as saying that if an officer arrives at the scene of a crime and sees someone with a weapon, “At a minimum, they’re going to be thrown down on the ground with a gun pointed at them — or worse.”
Gualtieri said the comment was taken out of context, but only after the quote was posted by a blogger for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and later distributed by Florida National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer, resulting in the sheriff receiving numerous phone calls, emails and comments on social media that tore him apart for his seeming advocacy of wanting to “have our deputies trained to shoot concealed gun owners, which is just absolutely irresponsible rhetoric,” a disgusted Gualtieri said at the time. “To say it’s the furthest from the truth is an understatement. It’s just complete nonsense.”
The Sheriffs Association continues to oppose the bill.
Meanwhile, Gualtieri only has one challenger, Republican James McLynas, a 58-year-old Clearwater resident. But it doesn’t appear that McLynas is that serious, as he’s not raised any money since filing to run , has no law enforcement experience and has not raised any money since filing to run two years ago.
The kickoff event begins 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the Hilton Carillon, 950 Lake Carillon Drive in St. Petersburg.