Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Race for Pinellas sheriff turns snippy and personal

Randall Jones, left,  and Jim Coats used their brief time at a forum to attack each other.

Randall Jones, left, and Jim Coats used their brief time at a forum to attack each other.

The race for Pinellas sheriff has taken a nasty turn, with two of the candidates hurling insults and questioning each other's integrity and ethics.

Republican incumbent Jim Coats and Democratic challenger Randall Jones had only five minutes at a candidates forum in Lealman on Wednesday night and spent most of it trying to shred each other.

One woman got so angry at Coats she stalked out of the meeting, and another audience member joked that it might not be wise to antagonize someone who carries a gun for a living.

It was a dramatic departure for an otherwise low-key campaign, and Coats said Thursday he hopes the final weeks will see a return of civility.

"I'm going to try not to allow it to reach the tempo it did last night," Coats said. … "Sometimes it can get frustrating, dealing with rhetoric that has no substance to it."

Jones could not be reached for comment. Independent candidate Greg Pound did not appear at the forum, sponsored by the Lealman Community Association.

Jones started the dispute by reminding the audience of Coats' response when told to cut his budget by 10 percent. Coats told Pinellas County commissioners the streets would be "littered with human carnage," that "law-abiding citizens will become prisoners in their own home" and that "innocent citizens, including children, will be caught up in a deadly crossfire."

Jones said Coats' comments amounted to irresponsible threats.

"Those words were reckless," Jones said. "Your sheriff said these words." Jones invited the audience to visit the county Web site, pinellascounty.org, to hear a recording of what Coats said about the cuts.

Coats acknowledged making strong statements about budget cuts. "I was just trying to make a point for the benefit of the community for the citizens we serve … I think I made my point because the deputies are still there."

During the debate, Coats said Jones was "misinformed, uninformed" and "misleading the public," a charge he repeated Thursday. "He has a habit, has had for a long time, of misleading the public," Coats said.

For example, Coats said, Jones has said there were 50 homicides in Pinellas, which is true, but only 10 were in Coats' primary jurisdictions — the unincorporated county and cities where the sheriff provides police services. The rest were in cities that have their own police agencies.

Coats also attacked Jones' qualifications and competency to do the job. Jones, an 18-year veteran of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office who resigned to run, has only the bare qualifications to be a law enforcement officer, Coats said. Jones has no college education and failed the sergeant's exam.

Race for Pinellas sheriff turns snippy and personal 10/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 7, 2008 1:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays blow another lead, lose rubber match to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles rallied past the Rays on Sunday, winning the rubber match of the three-game series 8-5.

    Baltimore Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini (16) scores in the sixth in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  2. Tim Tebow heads back to Sunshine State with promotion to St. Lucie

    Blogs

    Tim Tebow is coming back to the Sunshine State.

    Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow looks out from the dugout before the team's game against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 6 in Columbia, S.C. Columbia defeated Augusta 14-7.
  3. 'Sharknado' coming to Tampa Theatre with director Q&A

    Blogs

    A movie about a tornado filled with man-eating sharks has to be better on the big screen, right? You'll have a chance to find out for yourself when the Syfy network's original Sharknado screens at Tampa Theatre.

    The original 'Sharknado,' which premiered in 2013, will screen at Tampa Theatre.
  4. Coast Guard airlifts man from fishing boat in Gulf of Mexico

    Public Safety

    A 27-year-old man was evacuated from a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Saturday night, authorities said.

  5. Trump: Not 'that far off' from passing health overhaul

    National

    WASHINGTON — Making a final push, President Donald Trump said he doesn't think congressional Republicans are "that far off" on a health overhaul to replace "the dead carcass of Obamacare." Expressing frustration, he complained about "the level of hostility" in government and wondered why both parties can't work …

    President Donald Trump speaks during a bill signing event for the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) DCEV208