ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Retired SWAT commander Capt. Tom Stroup said he checked the Republican party box last week when filing documents to run in the Orange County sheriff election, but he wants the election to be based on substance, not partisan politics.
During an exclusive interview with News 6, the 30-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said he wants his office to be on the first floor as a sort of bridge to the community.
“I don’t want to be in an office that appears to be in an ivory palace,” Stroup said. “I plan reaching out to victims of crime personally. None of us is exempt from the realities of life.”
Current Sheriff Jerry Demings announced last summer he is running for Orange County mayor. If elected, he would replace Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who cannot run again due to term limits.
Stroup, a physical fitness fanatic, defies his 60 years of age. The high-energy grandfather said he is ready for the next challenge in his career and believes he has the right experience to win voter support.
“I started as a rookie deputy with a GED and retired as a captain with a master's degree,” Stroup said. “I was on about 3,000 SWAT missions. I learned to deal with people on a one on-one level.”
Stroup graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2009, with a master's degree and retired from the force in 2012.
Although a virtual unknown to Orange County voters, Stroup said he is ready to take on candidates with more name recognition, including Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
Stroup said he personally called Mina and other potential candidates, to assure them that there would be no mudslinging in his campaign.
“I do intend to announce my intentions very soon,” Mina wrote in an email to News 6 about his decision to run. The chief said that if he runs, he will run as a Democrat.
Stroup likened Mina's name recognition edge to a race against a faster athlete.
“I’m still going to run my race as fast as I can," Stroup said. “ I’m not running this race to run necessarily against anybody else, I’m running this race because I think I would be the best candidate for orange county sheriff .”
Stroup filed his intention to run for sheriff on Jan. 9. He said he has heard several names, including Mina's, mentioned as possible candidates.
“I consider John a very good chief of police, and he’s always considered me a great leader in my department," Stroup said. “What I hope people don’t do is base their vote on the team they know. Don’t treat it like a sporting event. Treat it like an election."
The former SWAT commander said Orange County residents expect their sheriff the to be a personable, approachable, hands-on person.
"That’s who I am," Stroup said.
He has set up his Facebook page as his official campaign website. It can be found by searching "Tom Stroup" and “Everything Matters."
Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said the special election will be held in late August.
Cowles said Demings must officially file his letter of resignation to Gov. Rick Scott's office and to the supervisor of elections by June 8. Until then, candidates for sheriff will file candidacy for 2020, not 2018.
The Florida State Supreme Court is reviewing the issue of partisan races for the six constitutional offices in Orange County. No timeline has been provided for when the court will issue a decision.
Jacobs filed the appeal to the court after the 5th District Court of Appeals upheld the decision to reverse the voter ordinance making all elections for constitutional offices nonpartisan.
If the race were held today it would be partisan.
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