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Pasco County Sheriff

This year's campaign for the sheriff's post has been uncharacteristically low-key.

By TAMARA LUSH

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


In past years, the races for sheriff in Pasco County have been punctuated with scandal, controversy and name calling.

This year the race for Pasco's top cop has been quiet, without a hint of mud-slinging -- possibly because the race really started in October.

Three Republicans -- former Sheriff Jim Gillum, law enforcement veteran Gil Thivener and political newcomer Bob White -- ran against each other in the September primary. None of the men received a majority of the vote, so White and Thivener, the top two vote-getters, were forced to raise money and campaign in a runoff election.

White won the second primary Oct. 3.

Running against incumbent Sheriff Lee Cannon -- a Democrat -- is difficult for White, given Cannon's name recognition and his growing contributions.

As of Oct. 5, Cannon had raised $88,836 and spent $34,958. White had raised $38,029 and spent all but $1,248.

But White likely will have the support of the county's top Republicans, including former County Commissioner Ed Collins and state Rep. Mike Fasano, who endorsed White a day before the second primary.

White contends that the race is not about him or Cannon and insists that he will not criticize the two-term incumbent.

The campaign is about getting more deputies on the streets, White says. If elected, he vows to use crime mapping to track incident patterns and says he will reconfigure the agency's staffing assignments to put more deputies on patrol.

Cannon, on the other hand, is running on his record.

Just last month, he persuaded the County Commission to give his 850 employees $3.7-million in raises.

In the past year, Cannon has also helped bring his troops into the Information Age. The department was awarded a $256,000 federal grant to outfit 50 cruisers with laptop computers; also, all deputies recently received cell phones and pagers.

Cannon also touts his commitment to children. He won legislative backing for a program that will aid children who witness domestic violence in their homes and has increased the number of school resource officers during his eight-year tenure.

Cannon points to a reduction in crime as proof that he's doing his job well and that he should stay in office. During a candidate's forum sponsored by the AARP in Zephyrhills, Cannon asked how many people in the audience had heard of him. About half of the retirees raised their hands.

"If you don't know who I am, that's a compliment," he said. "That means you're not experiencing any drastic crime."

THE JOB

Pasco County's sheriff serves a four-year term and oversees about 850 employees. The Sheriff's Office provides law enforcement for the unincorporated areas of Pasco County. It also provides court security, handles child abuse investigations and runs the county's two jails. The sheriff earns $117,568 a year.

REPUBLICAN

BOB WHITE, 50, of New Port Richey, is making his first bid for elected office. White is a sergeant in the Clearwater office of the state Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. White received his associate's degree in criminal justice from Pasco-Hernando Community College. His law enforcement career has included stints as an officer with the Brooksville Police Department and the Sumter County Sheriff's Office, and four years as a trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol. In 1977, he took a job as a special agent with the Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. He worked there for four years, then in 1981 was hired as a branch manager and operations officer with First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Brooksville. In 1987, he returned to the Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. He is married and has a daughter, who is a police officer in Clearwater. ASSETS: home, investments, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage, loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary from the Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. WEB SITE: http://www.white4sheriff.com.

DEMOCRAT

LEON H. CANNON, 54, was elected as sheriff of Pasco County in 1992. A native of Land O'Lakes, he received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Tampa and a law degree from Nova University in Fort Lauderdale. Before he was elected, Cannon was a lawyer in private practice. For two years, he also worked as a legal adviser at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office under former Sheriff Jim Gillum. Cannon was also a prosecutor with the Hillsborough State Attorney's office and started his law enforcement career as an officer with the Tampa Police Department. Cannon is married and has two grown children. ASSETS: home, property, truck, tractor. LIABILITIES: mortgage, loans, credit card debt. SOURCE OF INCOME: Sheriff's Office salary. WEB SITE: http://www.baylink.net/leecannon.

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