Orange County Republicans and independent Orange County Sheriff candidate Joe Lopez are outraged Friday morning over a fake endorsement letter that rogue Democratic Sheriff candidate Darryl Sheppard is shopping falsely claiming that the Republicans have endorsed Lopez.

“I am furious,” said Orange County Republican Chairman Charles Hart.

“Unbelieveable,” said Lopez, who is a registered Democrat running as an independent.

Sheppard is not commenting yet.

It’s not the first phony item Sheppard has posted in his rogue campaign. As the only Democrat who entered the primary, he won the party’s official nomination, but the Orange County Democratic Party wants nothing to do with him and has disavowed him.

It’s a difficult and critical issue in Orange County because Democratic voters dominate the voter registration; and many who know nothing about the race or the candidates might vote for Sheppard out of party loyalty. The party refused to include Sheppard on its candidates slate.

“Let me be 100 percent clear. DO NOT vote for the Democratic candidate for Orange County Sheriff. You are seeing the work of a CON ARTIST who has little to no regard for the laws a Sheriff is tasked to enforce,” Orange County Democratic Chair Wes Hodge recently declared in a Facebook post.

Republicans don’t care for him either.

“The Orange County Republican Party denounces this stunt. I and the Orange County Republican Party have not and do not endorse anyone in this race. On behalf of the Orange County Republican Party, I demand whoever posted this blatant lie take this lie down immediately or face legal repercussions,” Hart wrote as the party’s official response.

Lopez, a retired Florida Highway Patrol chief, and Orlando Police Chief John Mina are the serious candidates in the race. Both are former Repubicans who changed their status to Democrats last year, but they did so too late to get on the ballot in 2018 as Democrats. So both filed to run as independents.

Mina’s campaign has been trying to ignore Sheppard, who is running for sheriff without any professional law enforcement experience, not counting a lengthy arrest record.

Earlier Sheppard posted a fake tweet that depicted President Donald Trump praising both Mina and Lopez. Sheppard also has posted pictures of himself with prominent Democrats including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who angrily disavowed him.  Sheppard also has posted dubious polling results on his Facebook page.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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