JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s official. A special election in August will decide who the next sheriff will be in Jacksonville, until the 2023 general election.
Some of the candidates told News4JAX they thought Governor Ron DeSantis appointing JSO undersheriff Pat Ivey, as the interim sheriff, was a reasonable and fair choice.
The race for sheriff has now moved from a year-long battle to less than 80 days as the candidates try to move voters in their favor.
The candidates in alphabetical order by last name: LaKesha Burton, Wayne Clark, Dr. Tony Cummings, Ken Jefferson, Mathew Nemeth and T.K. Waters.
Candidate LaKesha Burton is optimistic, “I am excited when the Sheriff announced last week that he had moved we started thinking about this happening so I’m not surprised.” Burton also said, “I have been in this fight for a long time. I was the first candidate to get in the race.”
“I think the governor made the appropriate and important decision, not only for our community but for our agency to have some continuity but certainly for community to ensure that we have a clear and clean fair election.” Burton said
“I anticipated that we have a Republican governor, a Republican candidate but I just continue to say law enforcement should not be political we are here to serve the people and that’s what Duval county voters can expect from me, a sheriff that will get back to serving the people.”
Burton also said, “It is time for change we have been saying that we have incredible opportunity as a matter of fact 78 days and we can make change and I am fired up about it and we need a sheriff that is going to be a fighter and I am that sheriff who is going to fight for every citizen that lives in Duval county.”
Candidate Wayne Clark reflects on the shorter campaign timeline and encourages voters to research the candidates, “It does impact the campaign and I am excited because now with the situation with Sheriff Williams, the people are paying attention and they need to make sure they quickly get a qualified candidate in office for sheriff.”
Clark goes on to say, “I must applaud the governor because we need to keep this fairly neutral and Pat Ivey would’ve been the natural selection that way there is some continuity in the sheriff office until we determine, until the people determine who they want as the next sheriff.”
“We all know it is a partisan endorsement I talk to people a lot about the sheriff’s race, they don’t care if he is Republican or Democrat they want qualified police officers to respond so this is not about partisan it’s about professional law enforcement. So, I think the people will ultimately decide who they want as their sheriff.”
“I think that this is a very important race that we should pay attention to all of the candidates and make sure we are all legally qualified to run for sheriff and do their due diligence and make sure that we choose the most qualified people for sheriff.”
In a statement, Doctor Tony Cummings wrote that he looks forward to the special election however, he expressed disappointment with Governor Ron DeSantis and Sheriff Mike Williams. “It is unfortunate that the current sheriff has put the hard-working taxpayers of Duval County in such a compromising position; especially at a time when out of control gun violence continues to paralyze our city and our nation. The governor would be wise to stay out of local politics and allow the citizens of Jacksonville to elect their next sheriff in keeping with the city’s charter.”
Cummings statement goes on to say: “I cannot imagine a scenario where the citizens would accept the appointment of a candidate endorsed by a sheriff that has abandoned his post, even if it’s the governor making the appointment. As the old saying goes, ‘That would be adding insult to injury.’ It’s time for a change!”
Candidate Ken Jefferson said he believes the interim sheriff appointment makes sense and looks forward to campaigning. “We are looking forward to a robust campaign, a robust campaign season,” Jefferson said. “We are no longer in a marathon, right now we are in a full sprint. So it’s go time.”
Jefferson also said, “I am pleased that the governor made an impartial choice and not to someone that’s in the race for sheriff, the sheriff’s office can continue under the leadership of the appointee Undersheriff Ivey as interim sheriff and basically things will go as normal or as usual if you will as if Sheriff Williams was still there.”
“The governor and the party has privilege, or the option rather of endorsing whoever they want to endorse. Endorsements are great, they are good. Sometimes they carry weight, a lot of times they do, but at the end of the day it’s the voters’ decision.”
Jefferson continued to say, “Regardless of who is backing them and what party is backing a certain candidate let’s let the voters decide. We just look forward to a good robust campaign we are in sprint mode, so we will address our strategies and move forward.”
Candidate Mat Nemeth is looking forward to the special election to implement his strategy plan sooner. However, he doesn’t agree with the endorsement of T.K. Waters saying in part: “I am afraid the Governor might have inadvertently gotten caught in a backroom deal. Unfortunately, some of the people he says he has been listening to may well be some of the same people conspiring behind the scenes to sell the JEA, which continues to be a matter for the FBI.”
“I’m excited that the special election will be held in August. It will give the voters a chance, sooner than later, to make their selection for their next Sheriff. Also, If elected, it will allow me to implement my strategic plan sooner and start making our residents safer. The August date has little impact on my campaign as I have been meeting with community members as a candidate for almost a year to share my vision for a safer community. In addition, Undersheriff Ivey is an experienced officer and a good choice to lead the JSO in the interim.”
Nemeth’s statement also reads: ”I fully respect and support Gov. DeSantis and know that if I’m elected as sheriff, we will have a productive working relationship on law enforcement as well as violent crime, traffic, homelessness, and mental health issues affecting our community.”
Just hours after candidate T.K. Waters was endorsed by the Governor he expressed confidence in winning, releasing this statement: “I am incredibly honored to have the endorsement of Governor DeSantis to be our next elected Sheriff. I look forward to winning this campaign and working with the Governor to keep our city safe. In the month ahead I will be retiring from JSO to focus all of my efforts on winning this campaign. While this election is happening on an accelerated timeline, I am confident that I have the experience, resources and team in place to win. I am eager to share my vision with the people of Jacksonville in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, I look forward to Interim-Sheriff Ivey’s leadership in the months to come and working with him as I transition out of my duties as Chief of Investigations.”