Last week began with T.K. Waters scoring an endorsement from Gov. Ron DeSantis in this year’s Special Election for Jacksonville Sheriff.
This week, Waters, a Republican, starts with a clear fundraising lead ahead of the August ballot.
Waters raised more than $51,000 in hard money last month, giving him roughly $312,000 in his campaign account, far and away the best hard cash in the field.
Waters, the department’s chief of investigations, also has the best political committee performance, raising more than $80,000 in May, with nearly $875,000 in the A Safer Jacksonville for All account.
Leading all donors in May: Thomas Petway IV, who cut a check for $25,000 to the committee. The Petways were key Lenny Curry donors; checks from that family suggest where the momentum lies among the donor class.
Waters is approaching $1.2 million on hand, and the DeSantis endorsement ensures that June fundraising will continue that strong trend.
Democrat Lakesha Burton continues to be the second strongest fundraiser in the race, but with three other Democrats filed, the retired chief seems to have lost some momentum in May.
Burton’s state-level Make Every Voice Count political committee raised $55,000, with Gary Chartrand pouring in $50,000 of that sum. That account still has over $860,000 on hand.
She also raised $11,372 for her campaign account, which was less than the $12,260 spent. Lobbyist Deno Hicks and Rahman Johnson were among the hard-money donors. That account has more than $145,000 cash on hand.
Burton launched a positive television spot Monday on Jacksonville television, so expect to see that money spent down the stretch.
The third leading fundraiser in the field is the only Republican not named Waters.
Mat Nemeth has roughly $63,000 in hard money, with just over $2,000 raised in May. A political committee supportive of his effort, Citizens for Clean Government, has about $285,000 on hand.
Three Democrats running have struggled to raise significant money, meanwhile.
Repeat candidate Ken Jefferson raised a little more than $10,000 last month and has under $30,000 cash on hand. After months as an active candidate, Wayne Clark has a few thousand dollars. And Tony Cummings, who has run twice before, has under $300 — also after months in the field.
The first round of the Special Election, pitting all candidates on the same ballot, is with the August Primary. If no one gets a majority, the top two finishers move on to the November General Election.
No matter who wins, the term will be short; Jacksonville will hold Municipal Elections in Spring 2023.
The opening comes after the unexpected retirement of former Sheriff Mike Williams, who left office after a report he’d moved out of the county, a violation of the City Charter. Non-candidate Pat Ivey, the previous undersheriff, is Williams’ temporary replacement.