JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In about a month and a half, Jacksonville voters will go to the polls to elect a new sheriff. There are five candidates in the race. Four of them have been very out front with reporters in their campaigns. But one of the leading candidates -- Republican T.K. Waters -- appears to be avoiding news cameras.
Recently, News4JAX has been able to interview other candidates for sheriff to ask their take on recent events. Not the same for Waters, despite inviting him to participate.
But Wednesday, we were able to catch up with him when he showed up at the ribbon-cutting for the Jacksonville Beach Pier.
According to the Mayor’s Office, Waters, who recently retired from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, was not part of the official program, but when he arrived, he was allowed to participate.
News4JAX reporter Joe McLean was at the ceremony and wanted to ask Waters some questions, including one about his residency in Jacksonville. It’s been a question since then-Sheriff Mike Williams left office last month. Williams had sparked controversy shortly before his unexpected retirement when it came to light that he had moved from Duval County to Nassau County, causing many to question whether he should be permitted to hold the office under the city’s charter.
Waters was in a hurry to leave after the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday. The following is the exchange McLean had with the sheriff’s candidate:
McLean: One quick question?
Waters: I will answer one question.
McLean: There are some questions about your Duval County address. Can you speak to legally living in Duval County?
Waters: I live in Jacksonville, Florida.
McLean: Oh, OK. You were up there. How were you involved in the pier project?
Waters: One question. I live in Jacksonville, Florida. Appreciate it.
Because of Waters’ position with law enforcement, his address is not public record.
JSO did confirm Wednesday that Waters had been living in a mobile home at a park on Jacksonville’s Westside. Some JSO officers are allowed to reside in the homes in order to provide security. Waters has since moved, but it’s unclear where he is now living.
In order to be Jacksonville’s sheriff, you must be a resident of Duval County for six months before qualifying for the election. That issue is not the only question News4JAX had for Waters. We still were hoping to hear from him on other topics like the recent police shooting in Akron.
UNF political science professor Mike Binder has conducted polls on local elections. Binder did not talk specifically about Waters’ campaign strategy but said in a race like this it’s unusual NOT to want to be on camera unless you are the incumbent with lots of name recognition.
But there is no incumbent in this race.
“If you are a challenger perhaps with less name recognition, maybe it’s an open seat, that is an opportunity. What he would want is as much free press as he could possibly get,” Binder said. “Obviously, you would want positive free press because you don’t want to be answering questions that would put you in a bad light. But you do want to generate attention in the media and get your name out there.”
With the special election in 48 days, we should be hearing more from the candidates. There will also be a debate before the election that will offer a clear picture of where ALL the candidates, including Waters, stand on the issues affecting all of us.