By Ariel Thomas | firstname.lastname@example.org
After Clerk of County Courts Cheryl Strickland retired in 2015, she endorsed her chief deputy, George Lareau, calling him “the only candidate exceptionally qualified to hold this position.”
And Lareau was Strickland’s replacement for about a week, but then Gov. Rick Scott appointed someone else: a 29-year-old named Hunter Conrad.
That left Lareau in an impossible position.
“It was a little awkward,” he says. “So I resigned. You can’t run against your boss.”
Once Lareau retired, he was free to campaign for the clerk’s job and return to the agency where he had worked for 32 years, including 19 years as chief deputy to Strickland.
Lareau contends that he’s the best fit for the job.
Undeterred, Conrad has raised $20,181 in contributions since the start of his campaign. According to his campaign treasurer’s report, he raised $13,175 in cash, checks and loans in August 2015 alone. In reports from October and November 2015 combined, he raised over $5,000 in monetary contributions. His biggest supporters are law offices and regional realtors, as well as developers and a few private citizens.
Conrad could not be reached for comment for this article.
Lareau says his approach to campaigning has been different than Conrad’s. He has been asking for donations from family and friends rather than strangers.
“I’m not a politician,” Lareau says. “I’ve never done this before. I don’t want a lot of money, and I don’t want to owe people favors. I’m picky about who I get my money from.”
He has raised $1,455 so far, according to the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections. His contributions include $500 from Strickland, who initially appointed him to the position when she retired.
Lareau says that he’s trying to gather enough petition card signatures to avoid paying a filing fee for his campaign, which costs about $6,000. He’s gotten more than half the signatures he needs so far.
“I’m still fundraising and getting campaign supplies,” Lareau says. “We’ll probably have a kick-off party in the next couple of months. But my main concentration right now is getting petition cards signed.”
The election is set for Nov. 8, 2016.