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Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri wins re-election in landslide victory

By Kathryn Varn

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was re-elected in a landslide victory over James McLynas, an opponent who has become a vocal critic of the agency.

Gualtieri’s secured an early lead that ended with 77 percent of the vote compared to a little more than 22 percent for McLynas, 57.

"I’m very pleased with the confidence the voters have in what we’re doing and what we’ve accomplished," Gualtieri, 55, said, "and I’m looking forward to the future and finishing the things we started."

Gualtieri, a Republican, has worked in law enforcement for more than 30 years. He left the sheriff’s office temporarily to go to law school and work in private practice. He returned in 2006 to work as the agency’s general counsel, then as chief deputy under former Sheriff Jim Coats. Gualtieri was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 to the top job after Coats left the agency. He was elected in 2012.

In his second term, Gual­tieri said he will continue programs he has already started that aim to alleviate arrests for low-level offenses and juvenile car theft — one of the biggest issues for local law enforcement, he said. He’s also putting together a mental health unit that will be made up of two deputies and two social workers to respond and follow up on calls related to mental illness.

McLynas, who owned an auto repair and inspection business and has no law enforcement experience, ran a campaign asserting the sheriff’s office was a corrupt and poorly run agency that prioritized making money over public safety. He ran on two main platform points to end marijuana enforcement and eliminate what he considers "nuisance tickets" for minor offenses.

He raised about $8,500, compared with Gualtieri’s $120,400.

Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 445-4157 or [email protected] Follow @kathrynvarn.