Editor’s Note: The Apopka Voice is running a series highlighting several key 2020 election categories and candidates running in the August 18, 2020 primary, and November 3, 2020 election. While not every category of office will be covered, we will be spotlighting candidates running in the following races in Orange County: Sheriff, Property Appraiser, and School Board Member District 7.
For the Orange County Sheriff race, there are six candidates who qualified to run: the incumbent, Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Democratic candidates Andrew Darling, Jose “Joe” Lopez, Eric L. McIntyre, and Darryl B. Sheppard, and Write-in candidate Tim Lucas Adams. Here is a brief snapshot of these candidates’ campaign finances as of August 12, 2020*:
Meet the candidates for Orange County Sheriff
Incumbent, Democratic Candidate:
John Mina: Total contributions received: $342,135.72; Total spent: $317,097.35; Cash on hand: $25,038.37
Andrew Darling: Total contributions received: $42,556.40; Total spent: $36,215.30; Cash on hand: $6,341.10
Jose “Joe” Lopez: Total contributions received: $71,278.17; Total spent: $63,496.11; Cash on hand: $7,782.06
Eric L. McIntyre: Total contributions received: $17,050.65; Total spent: $15,393.44; Cash on hand: $1,657.21
Darryl B. Sheppard: Total contributions received: $10,900.00; Total spent: $0.00; cash on hand: $10,900.00
Tim Lucas Adams: Total contributions received: $100.00; Total spent: $23.00; Cash on hand: $77.00
*Candidates financials were corrected on August 15, 2020 to reflect only contributions and expenses from 2019 – 2020 for the 2020 campaign
We reached out to all of the candidates and requested responses to six interview questions. The incumbent Sheriff Mina, and candidates Darling, McIntyre and Adams provided responses. The order in which the candidates profiles were published was determined by random drawing, resulting in Mina (1st), Adams (2nd), Darling (3rd), and McIntyre (4th).
Who is Andrew Darling?
For Andrew Darling, Orange County is “home”. While born in Titusville, he was raised in Orange County, graduating from Oak Ridge High School. In 2004, Darling joined the army and served for seven and half years, including being deployed twice to Iraq. Upon leaving the Army in 2011, Darling pursued higher education, receiving both his Bachelor’s (2013) and Master’s (2014) degrees from Strayer University, before going on to pursue his law degree from the University of Miami. In May 2018, Darling graduated with his law degree in hand, and shortly thereafter, passed the Florida Bar Exam. Just shy of two years later, Darling began serving the community he grew up in by accepting the position of Assistant Public Defender with Orange County.
It’s no surprise with this background that Darling is running as “The Criminal Justice Reform” candidate.
Darling’s vision as Sheriff of Orange County is to “drastically reform the criminal justice system from its very foundation by focusing on equal justice and safer communities.” Included in this vision is improving the relationship between the Sheriff’s Office and Orange County’s diverse communities by expanding training programs that work and developing new ones that will “put our communities first”. Darling envisions creating a new Civilian Oversight Board (COB) and programs to improve accountability at the Sheriff’s Office. This Board would act as an independent agency to review complaints against officers from community members. In addition, his vision includes creating a program to help people get back on track and reinstate their licenses, and making “notices to appear” mandatory for nonviolent misdemeanors to prevent “needlessly bringing people to the Orange County Jail and creating incredibly burdensome financial penalties that are not necessary”.
Darling wants the Sheriff’s Office to set an example of what law enforcement can look like in Florida and nationwide. He believes this can happen through bold ideas and actions, such as focusing law enforcement resources on “serious” crimes, and specifically into solving violent and sexual crimes; ending arrest priorities for possession of less than trafficking amounts of marijuana; focusing on health issues of addiction and drug use; and by hiring an additional 15 Social Workers in the first 90 days of his administration. Darling wants to improve the safety of all communities across Orange County, and he believes taking actions in these areas is just the start.
Darling stated on his campaign Facebook page, “Orange County is my home, my family’s home, and my community’s home and it has been for my entire life. I want to make Orange County a better, more trusting place for my family and yours, and the only way to make that happen is through a reform platform.”
His website outlines his four top priorities.
Equal Justice – supporting reforms that reduce incarceration and racial disparities within the criminal justice system
Improved Safety – creating and continuously developing new programs that improve the safety of both deputies and community members
Connected Community – improving the Sheriff Office’s community connection through a new civilian oversight program, new community assistance facilities, and community engagement
Better Training – Expanding existing successful programs and creating new programs that increase deputy education requirements, expand deputy skill sets, and foster a culture that focuses on engaging community members where they are
Besides being a Public Defender and running a campaign, Darling is married to his wife, Jennifer, whom h
Interview questions and Darling’s responses
If elected to this position, and if COVID-19 is still going strong, what would you do to make sure your vision for and effectiveness as a leader for and with the community stays on track and makes a difference?
“When I am elected Orange County Sheriff, I will work every day to bridge the gap between the community and Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO). COVID-19 is going to be around for the foreseeable future if we do not take precautions now. My deputies will have the face shield style of mask so that residents can see their faces during all interactions. My vision is to reform the very foundation of the criminal justice system. My plans will make the county and the deputies that serve safer.”
What have you been doing that is unique to let voters know who you are and what you are about since campaigning during COVID-19 (mid-March to present)?
“We have been engaging voters wherever we are and wherever we can. That includes digital on social media and in-person (with mask and proper social distancing) at different events. During the George Floyd protests, I worked as a legal observer. My law firm represented nearly twenty Protesters, and every one of them had their cases dismissed.”
What has been a highlight during your experience running for this position?
“When I started my campaign on a criminal justice reform platform, I was unaware of how many people are so passionate about criminal justice reform issues. Every day I talk to somebody that tells me the criminal justice system has directly impacted them. We are going to win this race because the Sheriff’s office is on fire right now. The deputies want a change, and the community wants a change. I am that outsider who will bring meaningful reform and changes.”
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the Orange County Sheriff’s Office?
“Trust! Across this country, our communities, particularly black and brown communities, do not trust the police. I am the only person capable of bringing our communities and deputies back on the same page where we can build trust again. If we do not have trusting communities, we have communities that are going to be more dangerous for members of those communities and more dangerous for deputies. I will build trust on day one and involve the community in my decision-making process.”
What is your #1 hope for Orange County that you would love to make a reality if elected?
“It is implementing a civilian review board that has actual subpoena power. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, from a case a decade ago, is a named party in the controlling Florida law that says civilian review boards have no power. I will immediately reverse that position and instruct my office’s counsel to ask the courts for a rehearing. A separate civilian review board will have the authority to make actual determinations in cases of police abuse or excessive force cases up to and including termination. We are going to restore trust. It has to come from including the community in some of our decision-making processes.”
What would you like to say to voters who have not decided who they will vote for yet?
“This election is about whether you want a failed career insider or an energetic and successful outsider. Reform means substantive policy change. Reform means earning the trust of the community. Reform means re-imagining how we police in our county. Andrew Darling for Orange County Sheriff is the only choice for real and substantial reform. You will be safer when Andrew is Sheriff.”
Broward Social Network; Democratic Haitian American Caucus of Florida; Florida LBGTQ Caucus; Organize Florida; Orlando for Bernie; Orlando for Revolution; People for the American Way; Progressives for Democracy in America, the Central Florida chapter; Rainbow Democrats; Reform activist and attorney Ben Crump; The Soapboxx @SoapboxxPodcast; Working Families Party; Young Democrats of Florida
About the process: The Apopka Voice emailed the same six questions to all candidates running in the offices and positions outlined above, if their email address was listed. In cases where no email was provided, we left a voicemail requesting their email, and /or sent a message on Facebook requesting it if no phone number was provided. There were a few candidates that provided no contact information at all, or their voice mailbox was full. The response deadline was given equally to all candidates. Biographical information was pulled from the candidates campaign websites and / or Facebook page.