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Orange County Sheriff candidates face off in final debate of campaign

Watch the debate live on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. on ClickOrlando.com

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.Update: Click here to read a recap of the debate.

On Tuesday, the three candidates for Orange County Sheriff -- John Mina, Joe Lopez and Darryl Sheppard -- will take part in the final debate before Election Day.

The debate, which will air live on ClickOrlando.com from 7-8 p.m., will include two law enforcement veterans and a local businessman who admits he has been arrested 13 times, without a conviction.

Former Orlando Police Chief John Mina, who officially retired as chief on Monday, holds the edge in name recognition and experience, managing a large police agency and overseeing a budget of $1 million.

Mina has pulled in big-name endorsements, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) and the outgoing sheriff, Orange County Mayor-elect Jerry Demings.

“This community has seen me lead through crisis," Mina said. “I’ve proved I can do the job, I’m ready to be sheriff now.”

Lopez, a veteran member of the Florida Highway Patrol, ended his career as a major in the FHP and was promoted to the rank of chief on the date of his retirement in 2014.

Lopez has strong support from the community, including endorsements from the Libertarian Party and the Hispanic Civil Alliance of Central Florida.

“I’m a cop. I’m a crime fighter," Lopez said. “That’s what I do. I’m going to fight crime.”

During his career with the FHP Lopez worked internal affairs, SWAT and took the helm as bureau commander of Criminal Investigation and Intelligence.

Both law enforcement veterans running for sheriff agree on most issues. Both oppose community police review boards and share the same policies on school safety, excessive force and stand your ground.

Both candidates are listed on the ballot with no party affiliation.

“I think the community is more concerned about crime than party affiliation," Lopez said. "They’re concerned about what the sheriff is going to do to keep their family safe.”

Darryl Sheppard, 35, is the lone Democrat in the race. He is considered a maverick in the Orange County Democratic Party.

Wes Hodge, head of the county’s Democratic committee, has asked voters to vote for anyone but Sheppard.

Still, Sheppard has continued his campaign, surviving a recent lawsuit that called for the court to disqualify him from the ballot. The judge denied the lawsuit.

He admits he is tired of hearing about his past charges and said the experience gives him a different perspective to law enforcement.

“We’re ready to go,” Sheppard said. “This is not a race about who can out-cop someone else, it’s about surrounding yourself with some of the best possible minds.”

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Find more information in ClickOrlando.com's voter guide here.


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