Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti got a "soft" start to his current term: He was already sitting in for former Sheriff Ken Jenne, ousted early on fraud charges, and ran unopposed in the Republican primary. What's more, nobody paid attention to Lamberti on Election Night -- a certain African-American community organizer stole the show.
His bid for reelection in 2012 may be similarly overshadowed by the presidential race. But the campaigning here on the ground in Broward is sure to be eventful leading up to that. Declared Democratic challengers right now are Scott Israel -- a former Fort Lauderdale cop who lost to Lamberti in 2008 -- and Louis Granteed, a lower-profile Hollywood assistant chief who seems to have garnered the early support of several condo commandos from West Broward.
The mudslinging has already begun. Israel has
not stopped criticizing Lamberti since the previous campaign. He issued what Lamberti called an "absurd" accusation that the sheriff's January move to ban body piercings, visible tattoos, and gold teeth in the department was a retaliation against the mostly-black jail officers who stood behind Israel in the 2008 race.
An Israel supporter posted a message to the cop discussion board leoaffairs.com in May, asking people to post only positive stories about him. That didn't work so well, with officers chiming in about how Israel was "a nightmare on the street" and other accusations, including an attempt to cover up a shoplifting scandal and missing internal-affairs records.
Yesterday, another post on the forums surfaced claiming "breaking news" about the other contender, Granteed. The poster, "Republican Source," claimed inside information that Lamberti had arranged with Hollywood Vice Mayor Patty Asseff to allow Granteed to raise campaign funds "on-the-clock." The allegation being that Lamberti thinks Granteed could slow the rise of his likely opponent, Scott Israel. These are serious allegations and were mixed with a fairly even split of denial and agreement.
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Factually, what does that give us? Not much at this point. But just browse the forums and past news stories to learn that nobody's going to run in this race with a squeaky-clean public perception, especially among gossip-prone law-enforcement officers. We're looking to provide interviews with both early contenders down the pike. So while you're debating John Huntsman or Mitt Romney, keep half an eye on the Broward sheriff's race. In the Wild West of Broward, after all, the sheriff is still the most powerful guy in town.