State attorney candidates hold debate

Closing primary to Democrats discussed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Three candidates for Northeast Florida state attorney debated Friday at Tiger Bay Club Jacksonville. 

Incumbent Angela Corey and Republican challengers Wesley White and Melissa Nelson discussed numerous issues, including closing off the primary to Democrats. 

Last month, a judge granted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging a write-in candidate in the race for top prosecutor for Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of voters claimed Kenny Leigh's candidacy is "a sham," and he was only running to force the Aug. 30 primary to be limited to Republican voters, a move that would leaves hundreds of thousands of Democratic and Independent voters unable to vote.

When the three were asked if it was fair to close off the primary at Friday's debate, Nelson responded directly.

"Although it may be legal, it was a political trick," Nelson said. 

Her response set off Corey, who said she was not aware of the move until after it happened. 

"If the Supreme Court says it's legal, I am not quite sure how another candidate can call it a trick," Corey said.

White said he does believe that Corey was involved in the decision.

"I can tell you eight years ago when Miss Corey ran the first time, that decision was held if the primary should be closed then. She certainly knew about the process. And I know Angela Corey. Nobody does anything without her knowing exactly what's being done," White said. 

Other topics were also debated. When asked if the cost to house death row inmates was really worth it to taxpayers, Corey said the problem is with appeals, not her decision to seek the death penalty.

"Fix the appellate process, which I do believe the Supreme Court is trying to do, by improving the efficiency of the appeals process. But it's never to back down on the law when it's the right thing to do," Corey said. 

That response prompted the other two candidates to say tax dollars should be considered.

"Everything we do as servants to the people of the state of Florida, we have to give an eagle eye as to what it costs you," White said. 

Nelson said, "To disregard the impact of those to see as to how they affect your tax dollars is not right. That should be a consideration."

Any non-Republicans who wish to vote in the Aug. 30 primary can switch their party affiliation up until Aug. 1, and then switch back after the primary. 

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