JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The two remaining candidates vying to become Jacksonville’s next sheriff faced off in a debate Thursday night. It was the final scheduled sheriff’s debate involving Democrat Lakesha Burton and Republican T.K. Waters before the November election.
The debate was hosted by Jacksonville Today and the Jacksonville Bar Association.
It was different than the primary debate, which included five candidates — and not many direct attacks. This time, the two candidates took jabs at each other’s records.
Burton said a vote for Waters is a continuation of the Mike Williams era, during which, she said, the city recorded a considerable number of murdered teenagers.
“We can’t allow our opponent to have four more years. He just had seven years,” Burton said. “If he’s not willing to change his approach, we’re just going to get the same old, same old. And I’m sick of it.”
Waters defended his record as chief of investigations for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and a program he had that involved knocking on the doors of what he called “trigger pullers” and working with them on turning from a life of violence.
“She came to my office one day, about what we were doing, how we could help her in Zone 2. She did not even understand what the concept was and what we were doing,” Waters said.
News4JAX spoke with both candidates about the shift of tone in the campaign.
“I want to make sure voters know there’s a clear contrast, saying there’s a change, so I wanted to make sure people knew what that change was,” Burton said.
“We’re hugely different. We don’t even think the same about crime stuff. She was a part of the same staff I was,” Waters said. “It’s a difficult job. Not easy. If it was, anyone could do it. But we are working in the right direction. Have a lot of work to do.”
Waters is portraying himself as a man who’s worked in every facet of policing and someone who’s extremely qualified.
“I don’t quit, I never quit,” Waters said. “Our communities expect us to continue to work. I’m passionate about these issues because I’ve worked in it for so long.”
Burton says crime has been bad during Williams’ time as sheriff, and she says that would continue under Waters.
“We have a violent crime problem. My opponent has had the most money, the people and the technology. We can not continue to arrest our way out of the issue,” Burton said.
One group that attended the debate was the anti-crime group MAD DADS. The group is not endorsing a candidate, but hopes to see a drop in violent crime after a candidate is selected.
“We really want to see a reduction in crime across the board, whether it’s rape, robbery, stealing guns out of cars — but the murder, we’re already over 100 homicides for the year,” said AJ Jordan with MAD DADS.
The election next March will decide who becomes sheriff for the next four years. The winner in the November general election is eligible to run again in the March election -- and then again after the four-year term.