UNF poll: Waters narrowly ahead of Burton in race for sheriff

A University of North Florida poll of likely voters in the upcoming Florida primary asked respondents about the special election for a new Jacksonville sheriff.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a University of North Florida poll of likely voters in the upcoming Florida primary, respondents were asked about the special election to elect a new Jacksonville sheriff following Mike Williams’ resignation in June amid controversy over his residency in Nassau County.

The poll done by the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) was completed Aug. 8 through Aug. 12 and consists of a random sample of 491 voters.

According to the results of the poll, 41% of respondents said they would vote for Republican T.K. Waters, followed closely by 39% for Democrat Lakesha Burton. Behind them were Democrats Ken Jefferson (8%), Tony Cummings (5%), and Wayne Clark (4%).

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“With T.K. Waters and Lakesha Burton neck-in-neck in a crowded field, there’s a good chance this race will go to a runoff in November,” Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and UNF professor of political science, said in a prepared statement. “If that happens, it will add a very competitive local race to the midterm elections.

It was a surprise to some of the candidates. Cummings’ campaign sent an email with the subject line: “Watch Out For Misinformation/Disinformation Targeting Apathetic Voters.”

Binder told News4JAX that there is not intentional bias in the survey.

“Obviously, if you’re on the lower end of the polling metrics, you know, that makes you unhappy, that might make you uncomfortable, especially if your campaign isn’t doing any polling on its own and you literally don’t know where you stand in the race,” Binder said in an interview.

Also appearing on the ballot is a referendum proposing a property tax increase designed to benefit teachers and staff at Duval County schools.

We take a look at some important issues in an upcoming City Council vote.

When asked about this referendum, 51% of respondents said they would vote in favor of the millage increase, with 45% indicating a vote against it, the poll shows. Support for the measure is split along party lines, with 71% of Democrats supporting, and 63% of Republicans opposed.

The 2023 mayoral race in Jacksonville was also brought up in the poll.

In addition to items currently on the ballot, respondents were asked about the 2023 Jacksonville mayoral election -- and they were asked to choose from a list of candidates who have filed to run or expressed interest in running.

According to the poll results, Democrat Donna Deegan has the most support with 31%, followed by Republican Daniel Davis in a distant second with 11%, and Democrat Audrey Gibson with 10%. Twenty percent didn’t know or refused to answer.

“We’re still seven months out and this list of candidates will undoubtedly change as we get closer to the mayoral race in 2023,” said Binder. “For now, at least, Donna Deegan is the clear frontrunner with a 20-point lead.”

Respondents of the poll were also asked about a new or improved stadium for the Jaguars and whether they’d support the city splitting the costs with the Jaguars. Sixty-seven percent said they were opposed to spending $375 million of public funds on a new roof for the stadium, with 32% supporting. When asked about spending up to $850 million of public funds on a new stadium, 80% were opposed, while just 19% expressed support.