'Stand With Parkland' Stands Behind Gregory Tony In Broward Sheriff's Race
A school safety-focused advocacy group has declared its support of Sheriff Gregory Tony in the contentious, and fast-approaching, race for Broward County Sheriff.
Stand With Parkland, The National Association Of Familes For Safe Schools, was founded by familes who lost loved ones in the 2018 Parkland shooting.
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Within the confines of the pandemic, some of the family members of the shooting victims gathered in little squares on Zoom Thursday afternoon to rally and and try to raise virtual support for Tony as the race heats up. A few wore green Sheriff Gregory Tony campaign t-shirts.
"I'm pleased to announce our endorsement of Gregory Tony for Broward County Sheriff," Tony Montalto said.
He and his wife Jennifer, lost their daughter Gina Montalto in the shooting. He's also the president of Stand With Parkland.
He urged voters not to vote former Sheriff Scott Israel, back into the top office in BSO:
"Let's be clear: the 14 children and three teachers killed at school that day don't get the benefit of a second chance," Montalto said. "Thousands of students and teachers were traumatized because of the systemic failures which occurred under Mr. Israel's watch."
Early voting begins Aug. 8, and both men are running as Democrats. The race is rooted in bad blood: Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Israel from office over a year ago for neglect of duty and incompetence during the shooting. He appointed Tony to take his place.
Since stepping into the spotlight of Broward politics, Tony had his own controversial shooting come to light from when he was 14 years old, as well as allegations of omitting information on past job applications, such as drug use.
However, Tony maintains that he feels the changes he has made to BSO are for the better.
"Over the last 19 months we have focused as an administration, as an organization, on ensuring that we would put forth the necessary safety protocols for not just our schools, but for this entire community," he said. "Bringing back a much more public safety oriented organization."
Tony and Israel have other challengers, there are 10 candidates in total vying for the highest job in Broward County law enforcement. That includes Al Pollock, also running as a Democrat and who won endorsement from the Broward County Sheriffs Deputies Association Local IUPA 6020 union.
Tony has had a tense relationship with the union, particularly over personal protective equipment, or PPE, during the coronavirus pandemic.
Another contentious moment in the race came earlier this month when the Broward Teachers Union, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and has seats in their endorsement process, briefly supported Israel in for reelection.
"We went along with their [the AFL-CIO] endorsement process to endorse Scott Israel," BTU president, Anna Fusco said.
Then, the BTU decided to pull out.
"We decided it's a primary...doesn't mean we might jump in that race in November, but right now we have two important, very, extremely, important races on school board that directly affect us, directly impact us," Fusco told WLRN last week.
"We think they did the right thing by pulling the endorsement," Montalto said. "They failed to remember that three teachers were murdered ... hundreds of their union members were in danger, they were in danger, because BSO failed."
In the midst of the race and the pandemic, there have also been social justice protests and cries to end police brutality. Tony, the county's first Black sheriff, has said he supports reallocating some funding for public safety and community policing models, but does not support the idea to remove law enforcment officers from school campuses.
The practice was mandated by the state after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about two and a half years ago. Aside from the statute, Tony said he agrees with the practice:
"From a practical sense, we can't ignore what some of the national figures have indicated between active shooter events, how they occur, where they occur and where we are most vulnerable. And our schools still land on that list, along with our houses of worship," Tony said in his Zoom meeting with Stand With Parkland Thursday afternoon. "I'm a proponent for maintaining officers on every school grounds so long as we can continue to sustain it."