Challengers defeat incumbent state attorney, public defender

Melissa Nelson upsets Angela Corey; Charlie Cofer beats Matt Shirk

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two term State Attorney Angela Corey acknowledged defeat Tuesday as results of the Republican primary showed attorney Melissa Nelson with a commanding lead among Clay, Duval and Nassau county voters.

Corey thanked her supporters and said she would continue to work tirelessly until her term ends at the end of the year.

"I have just loved being the state attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit," Corey said. "We have done very well. We thought our record had been communicated to the voters. But apparently, it has not, and I will take responsibility for that."

Nelson told her supporters her first priority is to restore trust in the State Attorney's Office and the criminal justice system.

"The state attorney is elected to serve every family in the 4th Circuit, and that's what I intend to do," Nelson said. "Regardless of party affiliation, I am committed to serving everybody, whether they supported me or not."

Retired Judge Charlie Cofer has also defeated Public Defender Matt Shirk, also in the 4th Judicial Circuit.

Only Republicans were seeking the high-profile posts, and Nelson took 64 percent of the vote, with Corey at 26 percent and Wes White with 10 percent.

The three-way primary was closed to Republicans because Kenny Leigh, a Republican and avowed Corey supporter, qualified as a write-in candidate for the November General Election. Wednesday morning, Leigh dropped out of the race.

"What I did was for the Republican Party, and I'm voting for Melissa Nelson," Leigh told News4Jax.

As Nelson voted Tuesday, she admitted it was a strange experience to be able to vote for herself on a ballot.

“It’s been a great campaign and I’m so grateful for the people that have invested their time and their talent in supporting this effort,” Nelson said.

In the public defender race counted, Cofer defeated Shirk 77 to 33 percent. 

As with the state attorney's race, the Republican winner in the public defender's race faced only a write-in candidate in November. So far, that candidate is still in the race.

Shirk said his message has focused on fiscal responsibility.

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