Republican Ray Cross will be Dade County’s new sheriff on Jan. 1 after besting Democrat and former Sheriff Philip Street 3,256 to 2,670 in Tuesday’s general election.
Cross started his law enforcement career as a dispatcher in the Dade County Sheriff’s Department during Street’s 20-year administration. He was promoted to deputy, then sergeant, and in 1998 moved to the Lookout Mountain (Ga.) Police Department, where he eventually attained the position of assistant chief.
He returned to the Dade Sheriff’s Department in 2010 as a deputy under current Sheriff Patrick Cannon, who had nosed Street out in the 2004 primaries when both were Democrats. This January, Cross resigned from the department to run for the top slot himself.
Incumbent Cannon had lost support sharply after normally low-crime Dade was shaken by a string of burglaries late last year, and in public meetings leading up to the election season hostile crowds roasted the lanky lawman to a turn. In this atmosphere, challenger Cross easily won support and defeated Cannon handily in this summer’s primary runoff – despite full-page ads taken out in this newspaper publicizing the Chapter 13 and 7 bankruptcies filed in recent years by Cross and his wife.
Critics had asked then how a candidate who couldn’t manage his own finances could handle the Sheriff’s Department $2.6-million budget. As the race moved past the primaries into its Democrat vs. Republican phase, opponent Street took the argument to another level, pointing to public records that seemed to show the Cross bankruptcies had been caused not, as Cross said, by overwhelming medical bills but by general overconsumption.
Cross critics also challenged him on his announced attention to hire a fellow bankrupt as grant writer, and there may have been a newspaper or two that had a bit of fun with the candidate’s colorful promises to protect Dade’s second-amendment rights against an invasion of the county by the Obama-led federal government.
But throughout this, supporters wearing Elect Ray Cross T-shirts followed the candidate adoringly from debate to debate, overfilling meeting rooms and applauding deafeningly his every statement.
In his campaign, Cross vowed to focus more on serious crime such as drug traffic on the interstate as opposed to harvesting law-abiding residents for routine driving infractions. He went so far as to suggest taking radar speed-checking equipment out of patrol cars.
Another priority Cross announced was boosting officers’ wages.
Cross and his wife, Cindy, have three adult children.