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Challengers lining up to unseat Sheriff Daniels in 2020

The sheriff is the subject of an ongoing investigation by FDLE

Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels
Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – The list of challengers for Clay County Sheriff continues to grow ahead of next year’s election.

As incumbent Sheriff Darryl Daniels grapples with an ongoing FDLE investigation and a looming divorce, the fallout from an extra-marital sex scandal, three opponents have lined up to unseat him.

The latest is Mike Taylor, a former FDLE agent who ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2008. He joins former county commissioner Harold Rutledge, one of Daniels’ rivals in 2016, and Ben Carroll.

Daniels has been under the microscope since May when he asked a deputy to arrest Cierra Smith, a former lover and subordinate with whom he had an affair while he oversaw the Duval County jail.

The sheriff could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I believe that Clay County deserves a sheriff who understands that personal and professional integrity are inseparable," Taylor told News4Jax in a phone interview Wednesday.

He plans to file on Thursday before his campaign kick-off rally in Green Cove Springs. Carroll and Rutledge have already stockpiled significant war chests since filing their paperwork in June.

A small business owner and law enforcement veteran who works as an investigator for the Seventh Circuit State Attorney’s Office, Taylor said his experience and business acumen set him apart.

"There are a lot of good men that would do a good job," he said. "But none of them have the experience that I have in dismantling and disrupting criminal organizations and fighting crime."

Carroll, who retired four years ago after a 37-year career in law enforcement including 14 years with the Sheriff’s Office, said he is aware of the “challenges and opportunities" that lie ahead.

"I just have a servant’s heart and I just want to serve the men and women of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office so they can best serve the residents of Clay County," he said.

Rutledge cited his track record as a county commissioner and experience as a Clay County deputy, not to mention his residency, as some of the credentials that make him the most qualified candidate.

Among other things, he questioned Daniels’ request for a $10 million budget boost, noting that he lowered property taxes without affecting services while serving on the county commission.

Said Rutledge: "I can’t imagine that he’s going to run with everything in the background, personally and professionally."

While the sheriff has not yet officially filed for re-election, he said in June that he would "definitely be running for a second term."

About the Author:

A Florida transplant with Midwest roots, Garrett Pelican is the digital executive producer for News4Jax.