Fresh polling shows that while two candidates for Jacksonville Sheriff are far ahead of the competition, neither of them has majority support in Tuesday’s Special Election, ensuring a November runoff.
A survey released Wednesday by the University of North Florida’s (UNF) Public Opinion Research Laboratory (PORL) shows Republican T.K. Waters with 41% support, just ahead of Democrat Lakesha Burton, who has 39% support.
Burton’s vote share is suppressed by three other Democrats in the field. Repeat candidates Ken Jefferson and Tony Cummings scored just 8% and 5% support, respectively, with Wayne Clark garnering 4%.
“With TK Waters and Lakesha Burton neck-in-neck in a crowded field, there’s a good chance this race will go to a runoff in November,” commented Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and UNF professor of political science. “If that happens, it will add a very competitive local race to the midterm elections.”
The Special Election was made necessary after Republican Mike Williams was forced to resign after he willfully violated a charter ban on living outside the county. Gov. Ron DeSantis endorsed Waters at the same Jacksonville press conference he appointed a fill-in Sheriff, essentially closing the field for Republicans.
Yet while Waters could rely on party unity, Burton had no such luck, with three other Democrats emerging as candidates in the Special Election. The former Chief drew on Republican financial support as well as Democratic early in her campaign, but with DeSantis picking Waters, many of those donations won’t recur.
Waters already holds a big cash lead, with more than $1 million cash on hand, four times what Burton has left.
The Special Election will set up whoever is elected in November for an extremely truncated term. Duval County holds municipal elections in 2023, and the Sheriff’s race will be on the ballot. Qualifying for that race begins in January.