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Hernando sheriff refunds campaign contribution that exceeded maximum

Sheriff Al Nienhuis said he didn’t realize he’d taken a check exceeding the allowable from local auto dealer
Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis [Tampa Bay Times]

BROOKSVILLE — In September, the reelection campaign of Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis took a check for $1,000 from the Rick Mathews Buick GMC dealership. And then on Christmas Eve, it took another $1,000, which is not allowed under Florida election rules.

When the Tampa Bay Times asked about the two contributions late last week, Nienhuis said he confirmed the information with his campaign treasurer and immediately had the second $1,000 donation refunded to the dealership.

"It is not uncommon for a campaign to issue refunds for people and/or businesses who, over the course of a few months, submit two checks in excess of that allowed by the campaign finance laws,'' Nienhuis told the Times in an email. “This is especially true when a campaign is receiving a relatively large number of contributions each month.”

Nienhuis has raised $28,426 in monetary and $635 in in-kind contributions since he pre-filed his paperwork to run for reelection. His primary challenger, James Terry, currently has him outstripped financially. Terry’s campaign total reflects $32,439 in monetary and $6,714 in in-kind contributions. The third Republican candidate in the sheriff’s race is Chad M. Moore, whose account reflects no contributions in either category.

All three are Republican, and there currently are no Democrats in the race.

Nienhuis expressed gratitude of those who have supported him.

"I am extremely humbled by the net amount of money my campaign has raised per month in slightly over four months,'' he said. "I am also very happy with where those contributions came from and the average amount of those contributions. I believe it shows that my campaign has a tremendous amount of grassroots support here in Hernando County.''