Write-in dropout secures Michelle Cook seat as Clay County sheriff-elect

Frank Bourrie withdrew name from race less than day after Florida primary

Michelle Cook is now the Sheriff Elect of Clay County, but that wasn't the case hours after the election. Cook won the Republican primary Tuesday night, but a write-in candidate meant the vote was closed to just registered Republicans.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Michelle Cook is now Clay County’s sheriff-elect, but that wasn’t the case in the hours just after the election.

Cook won the Republican primary Tuesday night, but a write-in candidate left the stage set for a showdown.

On Wednesday, the write-in candidate -- Frank Bourrie -- withdrew from the race with a handwritten note, securing Cook as sheriff-elect.

Cook says she doesn’t know Bourrie. She says she hasn’t met him, nor has she spoken with him.

“This has been a long standing challenge under Florida law,” said Chris Hand, former chief of staff for Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Hand is in favor of an amendment Florida voters will see in November. It’s designed to wipe out the write-in loophole when it comes to statewide elections.

“It’s very important that this problem be fixed because right now in every part of Florida, it’s having the impact of locking voters out in having a say over their elected officials, which does not ultimately produce the best outcome nor the best government,” Hand said.

Bourrie didn’t appear to be a serious candidate for the role of sheriff.

News4Jax spoke with Bourrie’s neighbor, Harold Rutledge, who was also a candidate in the Clay County sheriff’s race.

Rutledge confirmed that Bourrie contributed to his campaign. They’ve known each other for more than 20 years.

Rutledge also said he did not coordinate or collaborate with Bourrie to close the primary.

Hand said the loophole is not fair to voters or candidates at times.

“It is a reform that needs to be adopted in the law as soon as possible because it has the effect of disenfranchising large numbers of voters,” Hand said.

Darryl Daniels has been suspended as the Clay County sheriff since he faces charges and was arrested less than a week ago. His campaign issued a statement last night criticizing the loophole, calling it dirty politics and saying that it kept 10,000 voters from being able to cast a ballot in the race for sheriff.

No democratic candidate ever registered to run for the office.

LINK: FDLE summary sheds light on why Darryl Daniels is facing charges

On a side note, there was a write-in candidate in the superintendent of schools race in Clay County. That person listed his address as a vacant lot in neighboring Bradford County.

No democrats

About the Authors:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.