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Florida Sheriff Jokes About Using His Political Opponents As Target Practice

By some accounts, Sheriff Larry Campbell has the run of Leon County, Florida — population 277,971. One resident of the area told ThinkProgress that Campbell once got in a bar fight, had his buddies arrest the guy who he’d fought with, then punched the man in the face. When the man asked the Sheriff who he was, Campbell took out a business card, shoved it in the man’s mouth, and said, “I’m Sheriff Campbell.”

Indeed, bluster appears to be a key part of Campbell’s public persona. ThinkProgress obtained a recording of Campbell from a Leon County resident named William Staubs. In the audio, Campbell suggested he could prove his skill with a firearm by using his opponents for target practice:

I’ve been in it fifty or more years but I assure you this, I’m not too old to cut the mustard. I’m still out there . . . I got out with my troops. I go out there and do what needs to be done. I told somebody the other day we have police standards that we have to keep up, that we have to keep our pistol proficiency up. And we have to keep our other police professional standards up. And I had invited the other candidates if they don’t think I can do it, go down and let me shoot at you and see if I can do it any good.

Listen (relevant portion is from 0:48 to 1:17):

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SoundCloud WidgetEdit descriptionw.soundcloud.comLisa Sprague, an independent candidate hoping to end Campbell’s 16-year reign as county sheriff, told ThinkProgress that, she offered Campbell a deal when he made this statement — “not unless I can shoot back.” She also forwarded ThinkProgress a signed letter from a constituent claiming that Campbell called Sprague “The Bitch” repeatedly:

I attended a luncheon where Larry Campbell also attended in full uniform and accompanied by an LCSO employee in uniform. During the luncheon he discussed your political campaign. During the course of the conversation he frequently referred to you as “The Bitch” in a demeaning manner. My feeling at the time was that this was a term that he generally used when referring to you or your campaign.

Campbell has 80 percent name recognition in Leon County, with an unfavorability rating of 40 percent. In an interview with a local newspaper, Campbell “totally and unequivocally” denies calling Sprague a bitch.