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Citrus incumbent Dawsy trounces 2 challengers

By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published November 3, 2004


INVERNESS - Jeff Dawsy breezed through the election, easily winning a third term as Citrus County sheriff.

Dawsy, a Democrat, was the incumbent in the three-candidate race for sheriff. Dawsy received 47,913 votes. Hank Hemrick, a Republican, and "Big" Mike Eyes, an unaffiliated candidate, divided the remaining votes. Hemrick got 15,459 votes and Eyes came in with 4,662.

After finding out the election results, Dawsy was exuberant.

"It was, well, totally euphoric," he said.

Dawsy didn't go to the Supervisor of Elections Office to hear the results. He gathered with several hundred supporters in Citrus Springs in northern Citrus. Someone at the elections office called him with the news, he said.

He told the news of his re-election to those gathered at the party.

"I announced it to everybody, and they all went crazy," he said.

He said he owes a lot to his supporters and employees.

"We thank the citizens for just supporting us," Dawsy said. "It was a great victory."

Neither Hemrick nor Eyes returned calls Tuesday night.

The election brought to a close a campaign marked by bitter allegations from all three candidates.

Eyes filed a lawsuit against Dawsy in mid October, claiming Dawsy harassed Eyes' family after Eyes announced his candidacy.

At political forums leading up to the election, Dawsy accused Eyes of bothering deputies.

Hemrick focused his criticisms on Dawsy's management skills, saying the Sheriff's Office suffered from low morale. Hemrick also accused Dawsy of playing favorites when disciplining deputies.

Both Eyes and Hemrick focused their campaigns on allegations of improper conduct by the Sheriff's Office during Dawsy's two terms in office. Neither provided proof of their allegations, and Dawsy said the allegations were false.

Dawsy focused his campaign on his past performance as well as his goals for the future of the office.

Dawsy has made a career of law enforcement, working in Pasco and Hernando counties before returning to Citrus County in 1981, where he climbed the ranks in the office before running for sheriff in 1996.

Dawsy is a well-known figure in Citrus. A frequent guest on local access TV shows, he's an advocate of increasing law enforcement's presence throughout the county by building new substations and opening community resource centers.

In his campaign, Dawsy said he would do what he can to keep up with the growing population in the county and continue to fight illegal drugs as well as burglaries and property crimes. Dawsy also said he would work to take more control of investigations dealing with the Department of Children and Families.

But Tuesday night was all celebration.

"We will rock and roll and go back to work," Dawsy said. "We're going to have a good time. We'll enjoy music, good food and just enjoy everybody."