Daytona Beach Top Cop Mike Chitwood Romps in Tuesday's Primary for Sheriff Despite Crowded Field of Heavyweights

By Henry Frederick
Headline Surfer
 
VolusiaChief Deputy Eric Dietrich finished a distant second in the Sheriff's primary / Headline SurferVCSO Capt. Dave Brannon fished 3rd in Tuesday's primary for Sheriff / Headline SurferMike Chitwood wins big in Sheriff's primary / Headline SurferPhotos for Headline Surfer / Either Chief Deputy Eric Dietrich, shown far left, or senior Capt. David Brannon, next to him (and both with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office) were expected to finish with Daytona Beach {{{Police Chief Mike Chitwood in a runoff in the November general elections coming out of Tuesday's primary. Instead, Chitwood won outright with a huge win in a field of five *retired Seminole County Deputy Wendell Bradford a distant fourth and former Pasco Sheriff Jim Gillum finishing last) to become Volusia County Sheriff-Elect Mike Chitwood. He's shown above in a screen shot from FOX 35 TV Orlando coverage after the primary win. Chitwood will become Sheriff on Jan. 1, succeeding the retiring Ben Johnson, who is finishing his 16th year.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There's no doubt about it: Daytona Beach top cop Mike Chitwood scored a huge victory in Tuesday's Primary in a five-candidate field. He actually romped, considering he beat second-place finisher Eric Dietrich, the Sheriff's Office's chief deputy by a more than 2 to 1 margin. 

Likewise, Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis and Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry romped with multiple opponents, but those results were expected. At best, political pundits had Chitwood in a runoff with either of the two heavyweights from the Sheriff's Office, Chief Deputy Eric Dietrich, the handpicked endorsed candidate of retiring Sheriff Ben Johnson, or senior Capt. Dave Brannon. All three candidates had strong endorsers, too.

Chitwood had Henry, the current mayor who won the primary outright over four other candidates for his second four-year term, Dietrich was endorsed by former Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey and Brannon had the formal endorsement of Frank Bruno, Volusia County's first elected County Chair. who stepped away from elected office in 2012. Dietrich also had media endorsements from Headline Surfer (with a secondary nod to candidate Wendell Bradford) and from the weekly Observer newspaper of Ormond Beach.

Dietrich, Brannon and Chitwood were 1-2-3 in campaign monies raised too: Dietrich on top with $156,880.40. Brannon with $136,580.20 and Chitwood third with $107,121. 

But when it came to the vote totals in Tuesday's primary, it wasn't even close: Chitwood romped!

In order to win the primary outright, a candidate had to generate at least 50 percent of the vote total, plus one more vote, in order to avoid a runoff among the top two primary vote getters in the upcoming general election on Nov. 8. Chitwood did that and more.

Consider: Chitwood received 46,774 votes or 50.64 percent; Dietrich finished a distant second with 20,919 votes or 22.65 percent; Brannon was third with 13,955 votes or 15.11. Retired Seminole County Sheriff's Deputy and Deltona resident Wendell Bradford finished fourth behind the winner Chitwood with  9,301 votes or 10.07 percent and retired Pasco County Sheriff Jim Gillum was last with 1,422 votes or 1.54 percent.

Here's another number worth noting: Second place finisher Dietrich finished ahead of third place finisher Brannon by 6,964 votes. Brannon finished ahead of fourth place finisher Bradford by 4,654 votes and Bradford finished ahead of Gillum by 7,859 votes.

For Bradford, having lost for a third time in his quest for Sheriff -- twice before to Johnson -- the loss was painful, but he was stoic in his praise for Chitwood,

"No matter what I think, the voters spoke and Chitwood won," Bradford told Headline Surfer after the final tally on primary night buy phone from his Deltona residence. "Mike Chitwood won this election fair and square and you've got to tip your hat to hi,."

Likewise, Dietrich echoed Bradford's sentiments, saying, "The voters have spoken loud and clear and they chose Mike Chitwood. We ran a good and clean campaign. We did the best we could and we came up short."

Asked if he thought the impression of being the sheriff's endorsed candidate hurt him, Dietrich said some might have felt that way, but he believed his campaign was clear about its message and that he was running on his own proven management experience. Dietrich, though felling the sting of defeat, turned to his faith for inspiration, saying he believes the future holds promise for his career aspirations." "They say when one door closes, it means God will open up more doors," Dietrich said. "We'll see what happens.

Asked if he thought the impression of being the sheriff's endorsed candidate hurt him, Dietrich said some might have felt that way, but he believed his campaign was clear about its message and that he was running on his own proven management experience. 

Dietrich, though felling the sting of defeat, turned to his faith for inspiration, saying he believes the future holds promise for his career aspirations." 

"They say when one door closes, it means God will open up more doors," Dietrich said. "We'll see what happens.

Editor's Note: This story is being updated.
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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories narly eveenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in Wst Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.