One of the biggest Citrus County political stories of 2024 may be unfolding a year earlier.
Sheriff Mike Prendergast continues his head-scratching political decisions, this time sending an email to county Republican leaders in the hopes of convincing them he is really, truly a conservative Republican.
He also doubled down on his criticism of Citrus County Democrats, using a phrase I’ll get to in a minute that may well define the sheriff’s attitude toward Citrus County citizens who question his leadership.
The reasons we’re here are two-fold:
— The sheriff performed his duties by assisting federal law enforcement in two arrests of Citrus County residents charged in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. That alone bothered a certain segment of county Republicans; it was worse when he took to the sheriff’s Facebook page to say he’d do it again.
— His personal Facebook page included potshots at voters of the other party, including a ballcap that read, “I’d rather be an American than a Democrat.”
Prendergast isn’t concerned about offending Democrats. He couldn’t care less about the feud with the Chronicle about access to reports; he probably enjoys it.
But when his own people turn on him, as they did in droves after his agency participated in the Capitol riot arrests, that’s a whole other problem.
Last week Prendergast sent an email to members of the Citrus County Republican Executive Committee. Someone down the chain was kind enough to forward it my way.
It’s titled: “Just the Facts — the First Edition.”
I’m not going to quote the whole thing because it is LONG. And apparently more are to follow if this is just the “first edition.”
Prendergast clearly wants his fellow Republicans to know he’s all Republican, which he capitalized in bold type.
“...I have frequently expressed my personal displeasure and asserted my personal opinion on a wide range of topics regarding the perilous direction the liberal Democrats have taken our country in,” he wrote.
We’ll come back to the liberal Democrat in a minute.
Prendergast then offers up his positions on three issues of Citrus County significance: Afghanistan, U.S.-Mexico border crisis and China.
Actually, Citrus was mentioned only once during his deep dive into Afghanistan, Mexico and China. Prendergast said a million suspected terrorists are in the U.S. illegally where they “eventually disappeared into our American communities, maybe even right here in Citrus County.”
Um…what? Terrorists in Citrus County? I don’t remember reading that on the sheriff’s Facebook page.
Let me circle back to the Democrats. Prendergast defended the posting of the “I’d rather be an American than Democrat” hat by quoting Teddy Roosevelt who said we should stand by country first. Totally agree. I’m guessing the sheriff will be sporting an “I’d rather be an American than a Republican” cap any day now.
Then he said the people complaining about the hat were a bunch of Democrat whiners.
“Apparently, someone shared my personal opinion with a liberal Democrat who took offense to it,” he wrote. “Well, I say ‘Get over it.’”
And there we go.
Don’t like the sheriff playing politics in office? Get over it. Don’t approve of his disparaging remarks? Get over it. Disagree with the sheriff’s budget? Get over it.
Actually, that’s the best approach to all of this.
Last I checked, the sheriff himself is the only one making waves in the agency. I see sheriff’s employees throughout the community, offering their hand and expertise to help make Citrus County the best place it can be. Remove politics from the sheriff’s office and most people, myself included, have total confidence in the men and women in uniform who protect us each day.
I’m going to leave that there for today but two points to wrap up:
As for “get over it?” Sheriff, heal thyself.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.