PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Bob Gualtieri has won the re-election for Pinellas County Sheriff against his Democratic opponent Eliseo Santana.
With 100% of precincts reporting, Gualtieri received 62.5% of the vote versus Santana's 37%.
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Gualtieri has served as Pinellas County Sheriff since November 2011. Gualtieri has spent 38 years in law enforcement.
Gualtieri says his three main campaign messages are: We need to continue reducing crime; we need to build better community relationships; and we must have agency accountability to further community trust.
Gualtieri is also the chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. The commission was formed after the deadly Parkland, Florida high school shooting where a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others. Gualtieri has been on a committee looking for ways to prevent other mass shootings at schools and other public gatherings. He is also the head of the Florida Sheriffs Association.
Santana has worked for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s office for 31 years, specifically focusing on efforts to modernize technology.
Santana says his first priority would have been getting body cameras on all deputies and reducing the militarization of law enforcement.
Santana is an outspoken critic of Bob Gultieri’s work with ICE agents, which he argues has helped to deport immigrants.
“Our communities still see the racism and inequality institutionalized in our police force. I know we can do better and I’m running for Sheriff so that we can change the culture of policing in Pinellas County,” Santana told ABC Action News.
Gualtieri tells ABC Action News now that now he has been re-elected, he hopes to continue the work he has started in Pinellas County. Just this year, Gualtieri launched a use of force deadly task force, which relies on outside agencies to investigate any severe injuries or deaths that result from a law enforcement officer’s actions. He also expanded the use of a mental health unit.
Gualtieri says crime has been reduced by 49.5% in Pinellas County, according to numbers from the FBI.
“That’s a credit to the men and women in the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the technology we use, the policies we have in place and laws we have in the books. At the end of the day, Pinellas County is safe and we are moving in the right direction. We want to continue that and drive crime down even further,” Gualtieri explained.