Four candidates with varying backgrounds and goals offer voters in the Democratic Party primary for Broward County sheriff different options for a nominee to challenge incumbent Republican Al Lamberti. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board recommends voters choose Wiley Thompson.
This primary has been marked by accusations of mud-slinging and accusations of dirty political tricks. That's always a disappointment, but even more so when the job in question is that of the county's chief law enforcement officer. And even more disappointing, too, when that sheriff's job is one that was recently tarnished by scandal.
Thompson, 59, formerly served as Broward Sheriff's Office chief of staff and training director, before leaving the post last year. He joined the agency near the end of disgraced Sheriff Ken Jenne's tenure following a long career in federal law enforcement.
Thompson has been the focus of personal scrutiny because of a bankruptcy filing he says was an offshoot of a divorce case. Perhaps, but many other people go through divorces without ending up in bankruptcy, and some voters will hold that against Thompson.
However, prior to joining BSO, Thompson built a 25-year career with the FBI. There he served in various units, ranging from counter-terrorism operations to public corruption to narcotics to dealing with local law enforcement.
Thompson makes a good case that this background provides voters, and residents of Broward County, with a very different option for sheriff. He says he'd be better prepared to deal with the multiple tasks confronting BSO, from street policing to port security, and his arguments are persuasive.
He also vows to use his contacts in Washington to garner a greater share of federal dollars. That's an open question mark, especially in an era of tight budgets and deficits. But he's probably in a better position to make a push than some of his rivals.
To win the nomination, Thompson has to beat back a crowded field. One strong challenger is Scott Israel, the current police chief in North Bay Village in Miami-Dade County.
Israel, 52, has a solid local law enforcement background. But that experience means Israel wouldn't offer voters a clear, different option than the current sheriff, Lamberti, who also has a police department background.
Also running in this primary open only to Broward County Democrats are businessman S. "Shak" Dhanji, 41, Hollywood assistant city manager Richard Lemack, 49, and attorney and former Justice Department official Bruce Udolf, 56.