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Did Matt Shirk send a campaign email from his government account?

On Friday morning, 4th Circuit Public Defender Matt Shirk made a curious decision: to send what appears to be a campaign email from his City of Jacksonville email account.

Shirk wasn’t messaging in his own campaign, in which he is down by 22 points to Charles Cofer, according to the most recent poll of the race.

Rather, he is messaging against State Attorney Angela Corey.

“I encourage everyone to watch First Coast News tonight at 11:00. All voters deserve the truth. Especially any undecided voters who need to know the truth about Angela Corey, her deception, and her opposition to helping veterans,” Shirk wrote.

At issue: Corey’s web ad on Veterans Court, a story covered exhaustively.

Shirk doesn’t link to that, but instead extols the First Coast News version in his email:

“Angela Corey does NOT support veterans.  She has been opposed to Veterans Treatment Court since day one and remains the single greatest impediment to veterans getting treatment for service-related injuries. Angela Corey would rather send veterans to prison than help them heal from their battle wounds. I encourage every voter and especially veterans to watch Jeannie Blaylock‘s expose tonight on First Coast News at 11:00 PM. The actual staff and volunteers of Duval County Veterans Court tell the real story of Angela Corey and her obstruction of Veterans Court.”

Interestingly, Corey’s spokeswoman at the SAO, Jackelyn Barnard, was a longtime reporter for First Coast News.

There is a long history of government officials in Northeast Florida sending campaign emails from governmental accounts, and it invariably is seen to be illegal.

This is probably the first time, however, that a candidate running for re-election decided to send a campaign email related to a candidate in another campaign.

We reached out to Shirk and Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan for comment.

Shirk claimed “this email is not a campaign-related email. It is not related to my campaign for re-election and should not be construed as such. Ms. Corey released a video which tells untruths about the Veteran’s Court Division of the Public Defender’s Office. Therefore, the Public Defender’s Office sent an email setting the record straight and encouraging the public to watch First Coast News tonight. If you will forward me the email address of the individual below, we can remove that person from our email database.”

We still await Hogan’s reply.

Meanwhile, opponent Charles Cofer isn’t surprised.

“The file extension on the e-mail certainly looks like it originated directly from Shirk’s office e-mail rather than his campaign e-mail (which is VERY similar).  If so, I would view this as further confirmation that Shirk is using office resources to run his campaign,” Cofer said.


Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at

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