Sheriff Bob White came closer to a third term Tuesday night, fending off an aggressive challenge by Republican opponent Robert Sullivan.
White, who won by a roughly 11-point margin, will face Democrat Kim Bogart in the November general election.
White, 58, is trying to become the first Pasco sheriff in a half century to win three terms. To get there, he has raised more than $160,000 and parlayed the support of powerful Republicans like Gov. Charlie Crist and state Sen. Mike Fasano.
He celebrated his primary victory Tuesday night at a party at Gator's grill in Trinity.
"Our campaign staff has just done a tremendous job," White said. "When I say it's gratifying, that's an understatement."
White has pledged that the next four years will bring a continuing drop in the county's crime rate and "continuity of control" for deputies, meaning they won't have to break in a new boss.
"We have a great command staff and good supervisors and great deputies. They're working so hard," he said.
Sullivan never came close to White in fundraising, collecting about $27,000. But he turned his low-budget challenge into a high-profile one by raising — and documenting — issues of questionable spending and political favoritism at the Sheriff's Office, where he was the vice and narcotics commander until retiring last fall.
Sullivan, 47, chided the sheriff for allowing civilian employees to use taxpayer-funded cars and gas and continuing his honorary deputy program, which is stacked with political donors. Late in the game he accused White of inflating the agency's crime-fighting statistics.
Reached Tuesday evening, he noted White's advantage as a better-funded incumbent.
"We're disappointed," Sullivan said. "But you know what, the people have spoken, the Republican Party has spoken."
On the Democratic side, Bogart, a former sheriff's captain White ousted in 2001, beat opponent Jeff Deremer with a resounding 74 percent of the vote.
"We've been working at this over a year, all across the county, in every area of the county," said Bogart, 56. "I think this is the result.
"Folks want a change."
Bogart, a consultant to law enforcement agencies throughout Florida, has promised better spending practices and improved relations with rank-and-file deputies.
Deremer, a state probation officer and liaison to the Sheriff's Office, was the youngest candidate in the field at 38 and raised the least money — just $12,000 to Bogart's $80,000. He sought to win votes on his passion for the job, fervent support for the deputies unions and profile as a hometown candidate raised in Pasco County.
Deremer could not be reached Tuesday.
White and Bogart will next meet in the Nov. 4 general election, joined by independent candidate Bobby Kinzy, a retired Tampa Electric mechanic making his first foray into politics — and law enforcement.
Bogart said he looks forward to the next phase of the contest.
"We are absolutely not slowing down," he said. "We're going to gear it up to an even higher level."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.