His Shot at the Sheriff

Lionel Stewart is honest, idealistic, and experienced. He doesn't stand a chance against the Jenne political machine.

In 1988 he moved to Miami because "that's where the action was," he says. After three years as the second in command, he retired in 1991. End of career number two.

Stewart did a one-year stint with the Broward Sheriff's Office as a commander in the Crime Stoppers program, but was laid off when Sheriff Nick Navarro failed to gain reelection in 1992. Since then he's been officially retired -- between runs for sheriff, that is.

In 1996 he ran as a Democrat, then became a Republican when no one from that party was running. Upon learning that the Republicans were going to field a candidate, he switched back to the Democrats. That year he got about 9700 votes to Ron Cochran's 49,000. In 1998 he campaigned but didn't pay the filing fee -- 6 percent of the sheriff's salary -- and therefore didn't qualify. "I got some bad advice about running that year," he says.

The man who would be sheriff: ex-cop Lionel Stewart (right)
Sherri Cohen
The man who would be sheriff: ex-cop Lionel Stewart (right)

This year he managed to pony up the filing fee -- $8313 -- though it put a serious dent in his war chest. As of the latest reporting period, June 30, Stewart had only $6440 in funds. He says he has about $10,000 now. Jenne had already amassed $91,000 as of the last reporting period.

Because both candidates are Democrats, the election will be decided in the September 5 primary. Republicans and independents are allowed to vote, a fact on which Stewart is betting heavily to pull off a victory. "I want to be the sheriff for the entire county," he says often, "not just for the Democrats."

He's also betting that Broward County wants a sheriff with a law-enforcement background. (Jenne is an attorney and career politician.) But as Gunzburger notes, the late Ron Cochran had that in spades, and Stewart ran against him anyway. "Lionel found Ron Cochran inept, he finds Ken Jenne inept, yet they are 180 degrees opposite in style. That's inconsistent. The only sheriff Lionel would find acceptable is Lionel."

To be a serious candidate, says Gunzburger, Stewart has to spend some time building a consensus, maybe do a few years as a local police chief. He'll have to find some powerful backers. He'll have to make some enemies. "You've got to be important to have enemies. People haven't given him any thought."

Stewart, of course, will hear none of that. He figures he'll get the anti-Jenne vote, which could be considerable, and if he can get out and convince enough people that the sheriff should be a cop at heart, he figures he has a chance. "Why would you elect a sheriff with no experience?"

Stewart doubts his opponent even knows how to load a gun.

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