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Reform-minded Democrat Tony Cummings enters Jacksonville Sheriff race

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams has a Democratic challenger for re-election — ensuring that there will, in fact, be a policy debate ahead of the 2019 vote.

Tony Cummings, who also ran in 2015, filed Friday. Thus far, he is the only other candidate in the race.

In 2015, Cummings vowed to “rebuild the trust of the community,” by fighting for an increased use of civil citations and instituting civilian review and accountability boards.

At a candidate forum during that campaign, Cummings — the 2012 JSO employee of the year — advanced a blistering critique of law enforcement in Duval County.

Describing a “community hemorrhaging from violent crime,” Cummings questioned whether more officers on the street would lead to a reduction in violent crime.

“When Nat Glover was sheriff we had 1,800 officers on the street, and we still have a violent crime problem,” Cummings said.

Cummings was similarly pointed when discussing the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s attempts to stop the drug trade.

“We’ve been fighting the war on drugs since Ronald Reagan was president,” Cummings said, adding that those he ran against in 2015 “have not done a good job” at winning the drug war.

He also advocated instituting Civilian Review Boards with subpoena power, a position not shared by his opponents.

“You have to be held accountable,” said Cummings, who added, “I’m sure the Lord believes in Civilian Review Boards as well. I hope my colleagues will change their minds.”

Cummings likewise blistered the promotions within the department. He attributed them to “nepotism, cronyism, and favoritism,” as he remarked that people with DUIs were promoted to director positions and “individuals with high school diplomas” were in leadership roles.

Cummings also drew a comparison between the Sheriff’s Office and Enron, saying the latter was a “collapsed organization because they lacked character to do what was right by people.”

The candidate launches at an interesting time: a major controversy locally happens to be pedestrian citations. “Walking while black” tickets have been used by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as excuses for pretextual searches, and African-American males have been more heavily targeted. City Council members and the State Attorney’s Office have objected, but the JSO is unmoved.

As well, 2017 saw Democrats on the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee grouse that they felt “targeted” by a poll that showed that citizens wanted to hire more police in the now-current budget.

Meanwhile, the murder rate has continued to spike throughout the Williams era, with 148 murders last year. With 8 murders this year, the trend is not favorable.

Despite all of this, Cummings faces challenges.

One such challenge: many of those who supported other candidates in 2015 have committed to support Williams in next year’s election.

Another challenge: money.

After just two months in the race, Williams has amassed $138,800 in hard money, and has another $192,000 in his political committee.

There is no way Cummings approaches those numbers anytime soon. And there is plenty more money for the incumbent out there.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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