4th Judicial Circuit public defender

The race for top defender for Clay, Duval and Nassau counties is a contest between a two-term incumbent and a retired judge -- both Republicans. 


No Democrat or other candidate will appear on the general election ballot, but a qualified write-in candidate will keep Republican primary closed.

No Democrats entered the race, but there is a qualified write-in candidate in November, keeping the Aug. 30 primary closed so that only Republicans can vote.

Charlie Cofer

Age: 64

Candidate's family: My wife's name is Emily T. Cofer, and we have been married for 42 years. We have two adult daughters who are both married. The eldest daughter is Laura Cofer Taylor, who is an Assistant United States Attorney. She is married to Jeff Taylor and they have two sons. Our second daughter is Anne Cofer Boccuzzi, who is the Director of Corporate Sponsorship Relations for the Jacksonville Jaguars. She is married to Philip Boccuzzi, and they have one son.

Occupation: Retired Duval County Judge

Education: Received my undergraduate degree in Political Science and Zoology from Duke University in 1974 (graduated magna cum laude). Recieved my law degree from the University of Virginia in 1977. Was admitted to practice law in Florida in 1977.

Political experience:
I was appointed by the Governor as a Duval County Judge in July, 1998. I was re-elected without opposition to that office in 2000, 2006, and 2012.

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  • Repairing the damaged reputation of the Public Defender's Office by restoring integrity in its leadership.
  • Using my experience as a trial attorney and administrator to provide the training and mentoring that the attorneys in the office need in order to do their jobs properly.
  • Eliminate the unnecessary staff positions that have been created by the present Public Defender that waste taxpayer dollars.

  • How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?
    Voters should expect every public official to conduct themselves professionally and with integrity. The Duval Grand Jury and Florida Ethics Commission have both found that my opponent, Matt Shirk, has engaged in serious misconduct while in office. Because of his misconduct, my opponent has lost credibility within the criminal justice system. The Grand Jury actually stated that "... to allow Shirk to remain in office for one more day than is absolutely necessary, exposes citizens of this community to unnecessary financial and legal risk." Shirk has ignored the Grand Jury's recommendation that he resign from office, so it is up to the voters to remove him. I will be bring integrity and experience to the office, and will be able to restore its position within
    the criminal justice system.

    What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?
    I do not seek this office for recognition. I seek this office to repair an essential part of our criminal justice system which is not functioning properly. My hope is to restore that office to the position that it held within the legal community when it was run by Ed Austin and then Lou Frost.

    Campaign Website: VoteCofer.com

    Matt Shirk

    Age: 43

    Family: Married w/one son

    Occupation: Incumbent Public Defender        

    Education: BS, Western Illinois University. JD, Florida Coastal School of Law.

    Political experience: My father was Republican Party Chairman in my hometown in Illinois.  I grew up volunteering for the Republican Party.  I have been involved in politics my entire life. When I moved to Jacksonville to attend law school I founded the Republican Legal Society at Florida Coastal School of Law and got active in local Republican politics.  In 2008 I challenged the incumbent Democrat and became the first ever Republican to hold the Office of the Public Defender.

    What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  • Veterans’ Court
  • Fiscal Conservatism
  • Curbing Community Violence

  • How can you help voters in a way that the others running for this office can’t?
    I have served in the position for eight years and know how to administrate an effective office that serves our clients. In addition, I have had the experience of starting a Veterans’ Treatment Court in every county of the 4th Judicial Circuit. Finally, I have worked to curb community violence by founding a non-profit called Vision for Excellence, which helps teach at-risk youth how to be productive members of society.

    What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?
    The work I’ve done to help veterans and at-risk youth all while representing our clients and standing up for the constitution.

    Campaign Website: MattShirk.net

    Social media: Facebook.com/MattShirkPD@MattShirk4Instagram.com/pd_matt_shirk