JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A candidate forum in Jacksonville where the dozens of men and women running for office in Duval County met Thursday evening to try and make their mark on voters.
There were fewer candidates to follow than the more than 50 involved in city council, but still a lot of people for voters to choose from.
Seven men are running for the role of Jacksonville sheriff. Many of the people attending the forum moderated by Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland came with high hopes.
One of the host pastors to this candidate forum were happy with the turnout from the voters and the candidates.
"Voter information, registration, mobilization, and finally voter participation. 1828 great turnout, that's what its about," said Pastor Marvin Zanders.
All but one of the men running for Sheriff attended, taking the opportunity they saw in a public forum. They all want to stand out from the crowd.
"I stand out because 31 and a half years in office. I worked in every division in the agency, able to get a lot of federal training while I was there. Retired in 2011. Still wanted to serve, went to Afghanistan for two tours in Afghanistan," said Lonnie McDonald.
"I'm still actually employed with sheriff's office as supervisor in the homicide unit. The only candidate spent ten years at the State Attorney's Office. As special investigator, it's quite a gap between an arrest and a successful prosecution. I'm also the only candidate who has business background as a small business owner," said Jay Farhat.
"In this particular instance, what separates me from the other six candidates is the fact that I'm going to introduce civilian review boards and accountability within the sheriff's office. And no other candidate has proposed that," said Tony Cummings.
The sheriff's candidates worked the crowd in a one-on-one setting prior to the forum, just as many of the candidates for 19 city council seats did. Several men say they want to connect to the community when addressing the tough issues, like violent crime.
City Hall belongs to a Democrat, but that incumbent was the only person running for the office not to appear at a Northside candidates event. Mayor Alvin Brown's supporters criticized the timing of the forum because he had another commitment.
The three challengers all hoped to make up ground in the race by meeting, greeting and revving up the crowd. News4Jax spoke with the three challengers and saw their efforts at a candidate forum.
News4Jax also talked to voters and saw how they responded to the claims of each candidate. Three candidates arrived before the event, but only two ended up in the forum.
Mone Holder and many like her were paying attention with their eyes and ears as they attended this candidates forum.
"Just the opportunity to meet and greet the candidates, put face to some of the names. Just want to see what's going on and what they have to say at the forum," said Holder.
Many of the voters were asking questions, too.
"What they bring to the table that will be beneficial to the city of Jacksonville, and what is it that's different from the other candidates that will make them worthy of my vote," said Conastine Morgan.
The most important issues for constituents seemed to be city leadership concerning jobs, crime and equal opportunity.
"So I want to know who I'm going to be able to work with in the community to get things done, especially here on the Northside. Because we've been missing out for 50 some years and we need candidates who are concerned about the community," said Stanly Scott.
"For me, in my community, some of the issues are around jobs. So seeing how economic security is going to be addressed here in Duval County. Something I would want to hear from all the candidates," said Holder.
Not all the candidates in the mayor's race participated, with Brown attending a different annual event.
Bill Bishop spoke to News4Jax at the meet and greet, but did not stay for the forum. That left Lenny Curry and Omega Allen to question the absent candidates to cheers from the crowd.
"My message is that I am the people's mayor. I'm running as the people's mayor. That I feel what the people of Jacksonville feel," said Allen.
"It's about running the city and leading the city. So whatever the question, whatever the problem, I'm ready to dive in with the solution and I look forward to that tonight," said Curry.
"We're all here at the same time. People get to talk to everybody and it helps people learn who the candidates are better," said Bill Bishop.