Broward's incumbent sheriff and only countywide elected Republican, Al Lamberti, was taken down Tuesday by two-time challenger Scott Israel.
Israel declared victory about 10:30 p.m. in front of hundreds of volunteers, his wife and his teen triplets at a friend's home in western Davie.
The crowd was ecstatic, clapping and screaming as he was introduced as "the next sheriff of Broward County.''
Israel thanked God, his family and his friends and supporters.
To those who didn't vote for him, he said, "I extend my hands. I'm your sheriff.''
After the speech, Israel said he felt "blessed" and "overwhelmed'' and wished his dad were still alive to see it.
"We've only fought half the battle,'' he told the crowd. "Now we've got to go over there, and we've got to serve Broward County.''
The 56-year-old Parkland resident will walk into the Broward Sheriff's Office a fresh face, having spent his 30 years in law enforcement working for other agencies.
On the campaign trail, he said he'd focus on preventing arrests of youth and jailing of homeless people on minor infractions, improving hiring diversity at BSO, and lifting morale. He said he'd fill a leadership void.
In the top ranks of loyal Lamberti hires, there's no job security now.
Israel had said he wouldn't engage in a "bloodbath,'' but that he would make changes in key positions.
Lamberti, a 30-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, was confident going into Tuesday's race. He staged his party at Signature Grand in Davie.
Though Israel was outraised by half a million dollars and had none of the benefits of incumbency, he won Broward's most powerful post after a fight that was vicious and left scratch marks on both candidates.
Israel was accused of being an adulterer and dirty cop. Lamberti was accused of fraternizing with felons and tossing away taxpayer money.
Both had campaigned tirelessly across Broward County.
Lamberti's public appearances began long before his campaign. He'd been on a nonstop blitz for several years now, from Coffee with the Sheriff in local supermarkets to paper shred-a-thons to a radio program and more. The approach connected with some voters, who said Tuesday they'd met him at an event or liked that he was so ubiquitous.
But voters said Lamberti lost votes for demoting jail deputies to technicians, for the behavior of some deputies voters had encountered, for the distaste the advertising left with them — and in heavily Democratic Broward County, for being a registered Republican.
Al Spiegel, 100, in Plantation, wasn't the only voter filling in ovals for every "D'' on the ballot.
Many of them may have been unaware that Israel was a registered Republican himself until his first run for sheriff four years ago.
In the final weeks, both candidates were battered with negative campaign material.
Israel was helped by mud-slingers separate from his campaign and spending their own money. His campaign also benefited from mysterious, anonymous emailers attacking the sheriff without disclosing who they were or whether they'd raised money to defeat Lamberti.
Much of the anti-Lamberti advertising reminded voters of ties some of his top employees had to then-lawyer Scott Rothstein, a notorious Ponzi schemer now behind bars.
Israel was attacked, too, including in a YouTube video by a young woman claiming she had an affair with him and got an abortion. The video was so offensive to Israel, his wife appeared in a video defending him, and she called the woman a "whore'' in a written statement.
"These are false and vicious smears far outside the bounds of decency in any political campaign. Al Lamberti needs to call on his supporters to take down this dishonest filth now," Israel said when the video emerged.
Richard Huff, in Plantation, said he saw all the negative ads and tried to decipher which man had the superior character. He selected Israel.
"Overall, I felt like the change would be good,'' said Huff, a registered Republican.
The race was a rematch for the two. In 2008, Lamberti squeezed out a win with 51 percent of the vote.
Staff writers Anthony Man and Linda Trischitta contributed to this report.
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