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New player in Jacksonville sheriff’s race gets key endorsements

Sheriff's candidate T.K. Waters (left) shakes  hands with Rep. John Rutherford.
Sheriff's candidate T.K. Waters (left) shakes hands with Rep. John Rutherford. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The election for the next Jacksonville sheriff isn’t until 2023, but on Tuesday Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and Congressman John Rutherford threw their weight behind Republican candidate T.K. Waters.

Some think it’s now Waters’ race to lose.

The endorsements come after Waters in the past had indicated he may not run following the death of his son in 2018.

“There was always a desire to run, but throughout time you start thinking about some things. There have been some personal things that happened in my life that I stepped back and evaluated. I had to make sure that I was ready,” said Waters, who is currently Chief of Investigations at JSO.

It’s hard to know the political motivations for such major endorsements around a year and a half before election day, but the move will impact Democrat Lakesha Burton, who many believed to be the frontrunner.

The election for the next Jacksonville sheriff isn’t until 2023, but on Tuesday Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and Congressman John Rutherford threw their weight behind Republican candidate T.K. Waters. Some think it’s now Waters’ race to lose.
The election for the next Jacksonville sheriff isn’t until 2023, but on Tuesday Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams and Congressman John Rutherford threw their weight behind Republican candidate T.K. Waters. Some think it’s now Waters’ race to lose.

According to the Duval County Supervisor of elections, JSO Assistant Chief Burton now trails Waters in the money race so far: Waters has raised $150,000 followed by Burton in second at $103,000 in contributions. There are also state political committees supporting both Burton and Waters, according to Florida Politics, and recent reports show Burton has raised more money statewide.

Burton said Tuesday she respects Rutherford, a former Jacksonville sheriff, as well as Williams but she’s trying to look to the future, not the past.

“I’m not running to continue what’s been done at JSO for the last 20 years. I’m running on a new style of leadership that will empower citizens who want to partner with law enforcement in making our city safer and more just,” Burton said. “This election will include a large pool of good candidates. I’m focused on making sure voters know the differences between the candidates, as well as who I am -- as a person and as a law enforcement professional. I’m leading a campaign that’s about uniting the citizens of Jacksonville, not about parties or politics. That’s how I will lead JSO. It’s going to be an exciting 18 months, and I want to invite everyone to engage in it.”

There are also three other candidates in the race: Democrats Wayne Clark, Tony Cummings and Republican Mathew Nemeth.

Clark said the endorsements may appear good but said that violent crime is up in Jacksonville and there is a perception of a lack of transparency at JSO.

A statement from Cummings reads:

News4Jax also tried to contact Nemeth. If he responds, we will add that response to this story.


About the Authors:

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.