All 5 candidates for Jacksonville sheriff have qualified, elections officials say

Mat Nemeth withdraws from race, endorses T.K. Waters

Six candidates had announced they were running for Jacksonville sheriff -- but that number was down to five Friday morning after Mat Nemeth withdrew from the race and tossed his endorsement to JSO Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Candidates had until noon Friday to file their paperwork if they want to run for office in Florida. That’s for everything from school board to governor.

Six candidates had announced they were running for Jacksonville sheriff -- but that number was down to five Friday morning after Mat Nemeth withdrew from the race and tossed his endorsement to JSO Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters.

“I am proud to endorse Chief T.K. Waters for Sheriff. With decades of leadership in law enforcement and currently serving as Chief of Investigations, T.K. has the right experience and integrity to lead the JSO,” Nemeth wrote in a statement.

Chief T.K. Waters offered the following statement regarding Nemeth’s endorsement: “I’d like to thank Mat for his support and endorsement as our campaign momentum continues to grow. As we approach the Aug. 23 Special Election, I stand ready to put my 31 years of experience at the Sheriff’s Office forward and am committed to delivering the excellence in law enforcement Jacksonville deserves.”

Waters, a Republican who was also recently endorsed by former sheriff Mike Williams and Gov. Ron DeSantis, has raised the most funds in the race. The latest contribution numbers show Waters has raised $1,231,857.66.

Waters earlier this month said he intended to retire from JSO in the coming weeks after transitioning his responsibilities as chief of investigations.

As of Friday morning, all five remaining candidates have officially qualified to run. In addition to Waters, there are four Democrats: Lakesha Burton, Ken Jefferson, Dr. Tony Cummings and Wayne Clark.

We asked the candidates what makes one another stand out.

All the candidates worked for me during my time at the Sheriff’s Office. They were all mentees of mine,” Clark told us. “The difference between me and the other candidates, I worked outside of the Sheriff’s Office at the airport as their chief of police. I was at the school police department for over six years.”

Clark said he’d hoped Nemeth would’ve stayed in the race.

Burton was not available for an interview Friday, but responded to Nemeth’s withdrawal, saying in part:

“This was expected, and it’s exactly why we need change at JSO.

“The establishment that has run the Sheriff’s Office for decades and failed to bring Jacksonville’s high crime under control has been scheming to rig this election so they can hold onto power. This is why I am running. It’s time to end the “hand me down politics” at JSO...”

Jefferson says he wants Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate all JSO shootings that involve police.

“We are going to be more direct, directly involved in the community type of agency,” Jefferson said. “We are going to address the gun violence, address the drugs, address human trafficking. We will advocate for fair and equal housing for the poor, and most of all, address the mentally ill that occupy a large percentage of out jails.”

Cummings released a statement that said the following about Waters:

“...The very same candidate who was put in charge of a homicide unit that left 70% of its cases unsolved ( that’s 7 out of 10 unsolved). It’s time for our city to turn the page on the good ole’ boy system of governance...”

With the unexpected resignation of Williams earlier this month, the City Council has scheduled a special election for Aug. 23 -- the same day as the Florida Primary.

After voters head to the polls, if none of the candidates reach more than 50% of the vote, then the top two must face off during a Nov. 8 run-off election.

The winner will serve out what’s left of Williams’ term. After that, voters will head to the polls two more times early next year. First for the consolidated election on Feb. 21, then again for the general election on April 17.

That means in addition to interim Sheriff Patt Ivey, who is currently serving, Jacksonville could potentially have two more sheriffs by next year.


About the Authors:

16-year veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor