Just as it was in 2015 when seven candidates ran, the 2023 race for Jacksonville Sheriff is getting crowded and expensive.
With 18 months to go before what Duval calls the First Election, an open Primary, essentially, four candidates have filed. And at least two of them have formidable war chests, especially for this early in the cycle.
The leading fundraiser is still the first candidate in the field, and has well over $600,000 at her disposal early.
Democrat Lakesha Burton raised another $114,000 between her political committee and her campaign account in what a media release from her campaign called a “traditionally tough month” for fundraising.
“We’ve already surpassed and updated our initial campaign fundraising goals,” said Burton, an assistant chief at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. “It’s been an incredible team effort led by volunteers and supported by hundreds of donors including some of our city’s most important community leaders — from both political parties.”
Burton saw a lot of establishment support from familiar names such as John Baker, usually a Republican donor, and Delores Barr Weaver, of the former Jaguars’ ownership. They gave both to the campaign account and the state-level Make Every Voice Count political committee supporting the effort.
A less familiar name with an old-school Jaguars’ tie also donated. Former hard-hitting safety Donovin Darius also cut a check to the campaign, which raised more than $17,000 in August.
The committee closed the month with $550,000 on hand, and the campaign had roughly $65,000 to deploy. While that is strong fundraising by any standard, a recently filed candidate’s launch shows Burton doesn’t have a monopoly on donors.
Republican T.K. Waters, the current chief of investigations for JSO, showed strong fundraising of his own. His state-level A Safer Jacksonville for All committee raised nearly $190,000, with J.B. Coxwell and First Coast Energy stroking $50,000 checks. He also raised $115,000 to his campaign account. Waters starts off with roughly $300,000, and worth watching going forward is whether he closes the gap with Burton still.
Meanwhile, two other candidates are running, and they are somewhat less productive with fundraising activity.
Mathew Nemeth, a Republican, launched his campaign with $53,500 in August. Of that, $25,000 was a loan from the candidate to the campaign.
And Democrat Wayne Clark, in his second month in the race, has yet to cross $20,000 total raised.
If past is prologue, there will be two elections for Sheriff in 2023. The First Election, in March, sees the top two finishers move to the May General Election, unless one candidate wins in March with an outright majority of votes.