The second-place finisher in Tuesday’s Jacksonville Sheriff election is trying to get the first-place finisher to agree to multiple debates sooner than later. But deciding which ones seems to be a sticking point.
Democrat Lakesha Burton proposes three faceoffs with Republican TK Waters ahead of the November election to fill the remainder of former Sheriff Mike Williams’ term, through June 2023. She suggests Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute, the League of Women Voters and the Jacksonville Bar Association as potential hosts for debates.
Burton wants them to start before the beginning of early voting in October.
“The issues in the race for sheriff are among the most important issues facing our city,” Burton said. “I’d like to debate them with Mr. Waters in a public, fair and nonpartisan setting so all voters can make informed decisions about which candidate has a better plan and the ability for addressing Jacksonville’s crime problems and community relations.”
“These conversations should take place in a manner that furthers voters’ understanding of the important issues at stake in this election,” Burton added. “I look forward to debating Mr. Waters in settings that allow the public to clearly understand the differences between how he and I would address crime and community relationships in our city as Jacksonville’s next sheriff.”
An email from Burton’s campaign manager to reporters, meanwhile, seemed to rule out a potential Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) debate as one of those three debates. That debate is slotted for Monday night and will apparently go on as a one-sided forum.
“The Burton Campaign remains committed to direct communication with FOP members, however Lakesha Burton will not be able to participate. The Burton Campaign will welcome any other means of a discourse with the FOP members should the FOP be able to offer one designed in the spirit of transparency of format and execution,” read that email from Marlo Zarka, campaign manager.
Burton, a former zone commander, got 33% of the vote last week, well behind the 47% her opponent got.
Waters, the former chief of investigations for JSO, was the only Republican in the race and was endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, while Burton was up against four other Democratic candidates.
He denounced her decision to duck the debate.
“It is a shame that my opponent has chosen to dodge a debate hosted by the very men and women the next Sheriff will be charged with leading,” Waters said.
“This last minute withdrawal is nothing more than a slap in the face to our officers by Lakesha Burton, coming less than 24 hours after she called for more debates. It’s now clear that Burton is more interested in participating in political stunts than participating in dialogue with the men and women she seeks to lead.”
Because of the different paths Waters and Burton took to the runoff, Waters will begin the second stretch of the campaign with a serious cash advantage.
As of Aug. 18, Waters had approximately $234,000 in his campaign account and approximately $627,000 in his political committee, A Safer Jacksonville for All.
Burton had around $52,000 left in her campaign account as of the same date. She also had more than $110,000 in her Make Every Voice Count political committee.