JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - You won't see their names on the ballot this fall, but before you know it, voters in Jacksonville will likely see candidates for sheriff out campaigning.
March 24, 2015, will be the first election in next year's city elections, which will include mayor, sheriff and City Council.
Sheriff John Rutherford cannot run again because of term limits. So far, the sheriff's race has drawn more candidates than the race for mayor of Jacksonville.
Because crime is always a big concern for the River City, many will watch the race for sheriff closely.
To be sheriff in Jacksonville, you don't have to have a law enforcement background, just be a resident of Duval County. It pays well -- about $161,000 a year.
Six people have already expressed interest in the job. All have law enforcement experience. Four of them have already filed paperwork with the Supervisor of Elections Office: Tony Cummings, Jay Farhat, Jimmy Holderfield and Mike Williams.
Two others are planning to file soon: Ken Jefferson and Rob Schoonover.
Political observers say they expect this to be a very interesting and costly race.
"I think it's going to be an expensive race as you look at all the campaigns collectively," said Michael Munz, of the Dalton Agency. "It could be on the low end, $300,000 to run an effective campaign; on the high end, half a million."
That cost will go for campaign ads. Most would think crime would be the big topic. It's important, but that may not be the hot topic. Michael Binder, assistant professor of political science at the University of North Florida, said other issues are coming out front.
"The new sheriff is going to have a lot to contend with," Binder said. "Most recently in the news is the pension issue. How does that play out? How is he going to keep the rank and file happy? The new sheriff is going to have a lot to juggle, and it's not just going to be about patrolling and keeping crime down."
"While the sheriff does not have direct control over the pension, I think the people are going to want to know, where is the sheriff candidate on that issue and how would they, as a leader of this community, deal with it?" Munz said. "I think crime -- while we have historic low levels of crime countywide -- I think they will talk about how they are going to continue to keep us safe."
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