GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – Heading into last week, the race for Clay County sheriff already promised lots of possibilities with five challengers lining up to unseat Sheriff Darryl Daniels.
What a difference one week can make.
Daniels, 55, was suspended Friday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a day after his arrest on charges that he tampered with evidence and gave false information to investigators during an investigation into an extramarital sex scandal.
While DeSantis has named a temporary replacement to lead the Clay County Sheriff’s Office in Daniels’ absence, all of these recent developments have people wondering what happens if Daniels wins Tuesday’s primary?
According to Clay County Supervisor of Elections Chris Chambless, it’s estimated that half of the county’s primary voters had already cast their ballots during early voting by Aug. 13 — the night of Daniels’ arrest.
Chambless said the county has seen more interest in this primary compared to those in years past. “Right now, we’re sitting at 19 percent, which is very good. Largest turnout for early voting and vote-by-mail so far,” he said.
It’s worth mentioning that Daniels does not need a majority of the vote to win the primary on Tuesday. With six candidates listed on the Republican primary ballot, the vote will be split.
The winner will likely win the general election in November when there’s only a write-in candidate on the ballot.
If Daniels wins, a few things will happen. Unless there’s a big development with Daniels’ legal fight, Chambless said, then the embattled sheriff would likely be sworn into office in January when the new term takes effect.
Should that happen, the elections supervisor said, the governor would have to remove him from office once again and then re-appoint an interim sheriff — as he did by tapping FDLE Special Agent Matt Walsh.
It’s unclear what influence DeSantis’ executive order would have on that process. The order suspending Daniels states the suspension will last until another order is issued or “as otherwise provided by law.”
If Daniels’ legal proceedings aren’t wrapped up by then, Chambless said a couple of things could happen:
- If Daniels is found not guilty, he would become sheriff once more.
- If Daniels is found guilty, there are two possibilities. If fewer than 28 months into the new term have passed, there would be a special election. If more than 28 months into the new term have passed, the governor would have to continue with an interim sheriff until the next election in 2024.
Chambless noted that all these scenarios are just speculation. He said a lot of things could change between now and when the new term takes effect in January. So the list of possibilities is wide ranging.