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Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri files for reelection

The incumbent has drawn one opponent so far: James McLynas, a former business owner with no party affiliation.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 2, 2020
Updated Jan. 2, 2020

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri on Thursday filed for reelection overseeing the county’s largest law enforcement agency.

This marks the Republican sheriff’s third run for the office. Former Gov. Rick Scott appointed the former chief deputy to lead the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in 2011, and Gualtieri won full 4-year terms in office in 2012 and 2016.

Also running is James McLynas, a former business owner with no law enforcement experience. McLynas, 61, ran unsuccessfully against Gualtieri in 2016. He filed for the 2020 election in March and has raised about $963, according to campaign documents.

James McLynas, 61, is running for Pinellas County sheriff under no party affiliation.
James McLynas, 61, is running for Pinellas County sheriff under no party affiliation. [ KATHRYN VARN | Courtesy of James McLynas ]

Gualtieri’s filing signals that he plans to stick around for another four years, despite rumors he’s gunning for higher office. The 58-year-old incumbent’s reach extends far beyond Pinellas County.

Related: Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is now the star cop in Florida politics. Who is he, and how did he get there?

He was tapped to lead a school safety commission formed in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and was in favor of a controversial recommendation to arm some teachers.

Gualtieri has also forged close relationships with federal immigration authorities amid a nationwide enforcement crackdown and entered a long-time debate over Florida’s stand-your-ground law when he cited it in his decision not to arrest a man at the center of a high-profile shooting. The man, Michael Drejka, was later charged and convicted of manslaughter.

In 2019, Gualtieri was named sheriff of the year by the National Sheriffs’ Association and was elected president of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Gualtieri first joined the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office in 1982 as a detention deputy. After working briefly at the former Dunedin Police Department, he returned to the Sheriff’s Office and worked as a narcotics detective specializing in wiretaps.

He left the agency in 2000 to enroll at Stetson University College of Law, then worked in private practice. He returned to the Sheriff’s Office in 2006 as general counsel. He was the agency’s No. 2 official and general counsel in 2011 when he succeeded former Sheriff Jim Coats, who stepped down to care for his ailing wife.

The Pinellas sheriff oversees about 3,000 employees and a budget of $300 million. The job also includes oversight of the county jail with an average daily population of roughly 3,000 inmates.

Election Day is Nov. 3.