Special election: Who will be Jacksonville’s next sheriff?

Today is the final day to vote for the new sheriff of Jacksonville. The race is between Lakesha Burton, Wayne Clark, Tony Cummings, Ken Jefferson, and T.K. Waters. Here is some last minute information to inform your vote.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One of the key races on the ballot in Duval County on Tuesday is the special election for Jacksonville sheriff.

After Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams announced his sudden retirement amid controversy about his move from Duval to Nassau County, the candidates who had been vying to replace the term-limited Williams in the March 2023 municipal election suddenly had their timetable moved up.

Democrats Lakesha Burton, Wayne Clark, Tony Cummings and Ken Jefferson, and Republican T.K. Waters are each hoping to fulfill the remainder of Williams’ term.

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To do that, one of them will have to get 50% of the vote, plus one, once the votes are counted Tuesday. If that doesn’t happen, the two candidates who receive the most votes will advance to a runoff election in November.

Regardless of who fills the job for the rest of Williams’ term, the March 2023 election will decide who becomes sheriff for the next four years.

News4JAX hosted the only televised debate between all five candidates two weeks ago. News4JAX Insider questions included the candidates’ plan for improving transparency, balancing the budget, race relations, and tackling violent crime.


Below are excerpts from the candidates’ responses on how they would address violent crime (listed in alphabetical order by last name):

Lakesha Burton

“We have to address our crime problem from a different approach. That approach is a comprehensive approach. Our focus should be on education, prevention and enforcement. This whole notion that we have to have law and order or community policing is why we are failing. It’s not one or the other. It’s both.

Wayne Clark

“I had the opportunity to lead a program called Operation Safe Streets where we partnered with the Police Executive Research Forum and we used data and real-time street intelligence to tell us who the bad guys were, where they hung out and how to deploy our people and we were able to reduce murders and violent crime in this city from 2007 to 2010 to a 25-year low.”

Tony Cummings

“The JSO leadership at the time (2015) said if you just give me 200 more officers and more of your tax dollars, we can bring down crime in Jacksonville, and you accommodated them. The JSO budget went from $386 million to $502 million. It went from 1,600 sworn officers to 1,800 sworn officers. What was the verdict? In 2019, you had 162 homicides.”

Ken Jefferson

“My approach would be proactivity, visibility, using intelligence-led data to take me where I need to go to address these issues. Saturate those areas. Weed out the bad apples in that area but when you weed something out, you’ve got to put something back in it. We’ll provide mentorship. We’ll provide programs. We’ll provide various things for the community because it’s all about working with the community.”

T.K. Waters

“I started a program with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office called violence reduction strategy. That was a strategy built on making contact with young men in our community, the most of our young men who are at risk in our community, presenting them with some other options to do something different and change their lives. I went to 450 houses myself to knock on each one of those doors. No other candidate understands the violent crime problem as we do.”

MORE: Gangs, crime and transparency: JSO sheriff’s candidates address issues with business leaders | Jacksonville Sheriff’s Debate: Candidates weigh in on officer-involved shootings, excessive force | Fighting crime, building trust & transparency: Sheriff candidates pledge to make Jacksonville safer | Violent weekend in Jacksonville: Sheriff’s candidates weigh-in

Polls opened at 7 p.m. After the polls close at 7 p.m., News4JAX will have special live coverage starting at 8 p.m. You can watch on-air, online and on News4JAX+.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.