Who’s Running for State Attorney in the August 2018 Primaries?

Florida is divided into 20 Judicial Circuits, each of which has an elected State Attorney. Collier County is in the 20th Circuit, which is the largest circuit, geographically, in the state. It also includes Charlotte, Glades, Hendry, and Lee counties.

Incumbent Stephen Russell is retiring after 16 years in office, and there will be a Republican primary in August. 

What does the State Attorney do?

The State Attorney serves as the prosecutor, representing “the people” in criminal courts throughout the circuit. The 20th Circuit State Attorney’s Office “seeks to deter crime and to ensure Southwest Florida is a safe place for our citizens and visitors” by holding people accountable for their criminal acts.

The backstory

Two Republicans filed to run for State Attorney: Chris Crowley and Amira Fox. With only two Republicans running, the primary would have been open to all voters regardless of party affiliation.

But thanks to the “write-in loophole,” only registered Republicans can vote in the primary. The only choice more than 435,000 registered Democrat and No Party Affiliation voters will have in November is between the winner of the primary and the write-in candidate — in other words, no choice at all.

See “Editorial: Disenfranchising state attorney voters is shameful,” Naples Daily News, 5/12/18. Also read how last-minute write-ins denied 42 percent of Collier voters a say in the 2016 primaries here, and how the Constitution Revision Commission failed to close the loophole here.

According to the News-Press, Crowley said he was in favor of Hoffman’s qualifying for the race and limiting the voting to registered Republican voters, and that “Democrats should get their own candidate.”

The candidates

Chris Crowley

Chris Crowley (crowley2018.com) is a former felony prosecutor and Iraq war veteran. He received an undergraduate degree from The George Washington University and a law degree from Suffolk University of Law. His Crowley Law Firm provides mediation, bankruptcy and consumer law, veterans benefits and criminal law services in Southwest Florida.

According to his LinkedIn resume, Crowley was an Assistant State Attorney in the 20th Circuit from 1999 – 2014. (Note: That was the year Fox became Chief Assistant State Attorney.)

Crowley also serves as the elected Republican State Committeeman for Lee County and on the board of the local Military Officers Association of America, and is a Rotarian, VFW lifetime member and NRA member.

His website lists endorsements from political operative Roger Stone and former Lee County Sheriff Rodney Shoap.

Amira Fox

Amira Fox (foxforstateattorney.com) is Chief Assistant State Attorney (20th Circuit), supervising a team of 300 staff members including 120 Assistant State Attorneys. She has a BA from American University and a law degree from The George Washington University School of Law.

Fox was an Assistant State Attorney for 18 years including serving as office head of Hendry, Glades and Collier counties. She then went out on her own, spending six years in private practice, then returned to the State Attorney’s Office to be Deputy Chief Assistant. She was promoted to her current position as Chief Assistant in 2014. For more, see here.

Recently, she conducted the death penalty proceedings against Mesac Damas in Collier County, which resulted in six death sentences for the murders of his wife and five children.

Her website lists endorsements from the NRA & Unified Sportsmen of Florida, Businesspeople United for Political Action Committee, The Hispanic Vote, SWFL Chapter, retiring State Attorney (20th Circuit) Steve Russell, former State Attorney (20th Circuit) Joe D’Alessandro, the President of the Florida Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, the sheriffs of the five counties of the 20th Circuit, Collier County Commissioner Burt Saunders, and many more.

Joseph P. Hoffman is a sole proprietor attorney. He has no website, and did not make himself available for news media interviews. According to a Naples Daily News editorial, prior news reports show attorney Joseph P. Hoffman from the legal office address on his election filing was publicly reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015.

The money

I reviewed the financial reports of all three candidates and, focusing on large amounts, prominent donors and donor occupations, noted the following:

Contributions to Crowley – Nine contributions of $1,000 each, including two with donor last name “Crowley;” 17 contributions totaling $68,500 from attorneys; and one $200 contribution from law enforcement.

Contributions to Fox – 120 contributions of $1,000 each, including from incumbent State Attorney Steve Russell, Conservative Coalition For Florida’s Future PAC, Prosperity Florida PC, and GrayRobinson PA Florida PAC; 107 contributions totaling $70,300 from attorneys; 38 contributions totaling $15,000 from Assistant State Attorneys; and 33 contributions totaling $5,000 from law enforcement.

Getting ugly

Initially the race largely dealt with conviction rates and the level of crime being reported. But lately it’s gotten ugly. For example:

The race will effectively be decided in August, despite the “run-off” in November.

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