In the five-man race for Pasco County Sheriff, only two candidates are making headlines lately.
One is Bob White, the current sheriff. The other is Robert Sullivan, his challenger in the Republican primary. He's been scratching up unflattering issues and beckoning White to respond.
The three Democrats in the field have been absent from such news stories. They have plenty to say about needed improvements in the agency, but haven't followed Sullivan's tactic of raising issues and drafting press releases.
They say their campaigns are about meeting voters and gaining name recognition.
"I'm sitting back. I'm building my foundation," said Kim Bogart, a longtime sheriff's captain whom White fired during reorganizations after he was elected.
One of his opponents, Jeff Deremer, expressed distaste for the back-and-forth.
"They're tearing each other up," said Deremer, a state probation officer. "We're kind of just letting that happen."
White far outpaces his opponents in fundraising. The sheriff has more than $136,000, elections records show. The other four have a combined $45,000.
Bogart, with about $26,000, says his donations are coming in $50 and $100 increments.
"They're coming in from people who are not wealthy," he said. "They add up."
He said he's speaking to civic groups and amassing an army of volunteers.
Deremer, who has also been appearing at neighborhood meetings and festivals, said his focus has been on gathering petitions to qualify for the ballot. He still needs about 500 signatures.
Bobby Kinzy, the third Democrat, has raised just $520. He doesn't think it's going to matter.
"I just think this time around that people see the handwriting on the wall," he said. "I don't think the big money's going to help" White.
Sullivan started going after White in February on issues like the sheriff's honorary deputy
program. Sullivan says the program is nothing more than a political gesture; White says it's his way of honoring people who give back to the community.
Sullivan also criticized the take-home cars assigned to nonemergency personnel. White recently pulled 50 such cars off the road, but said it was an operational decision unrelated to Sullivan's attack.
For a while, the sheriff kept quiet under Sullivan's steady fire, but he recently spoke up, pointing out that Sullivan complained when White stopped allowing him to take his own vehicle to his home in Brooksville.
Deremer said he believes the nastiness between White and Sullivan could ultimately help the Democratic nominee.
"It helps us concentrate more on the issues and campaigning, more than worrying about what the next guy says about you," he said.
Bogart said he wants to be a classy, professional candidate "because that's what the agency's going to need later."
Sullivan, meanwhile, kept up his assault last week. On Friday, he produced a list of White's honorary deputies who have criminal charges on their records and faxed it to local media outlets.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6245.