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First Coast Connect: Rutherford Fights Off Attacks As Primary Election Nears

Kevin Meerschaert
District 4 Congressional candidate John Rutherford joined Melissa Ross Wednesday morning on WJCT's First Coast Connect.

Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said on Wednesday's First Coast Connect, he wants to fix the economy and strengthen the military as he runs for Congressional District 4, replacing the retiring Ander Crenshaw. He also said he wants to strengthen nation’s borders to combat terrorism.

Rutherford has won the endorsement of many prominent local Republicans but the leader in the polls has been sharply criticized by his primary opponents, primarily Hanz Tanzler, who said Rutherford is too liberal to represent the district.

Rutherford disputes the claim, stating he has a long history of conservative leadership in the sheriff’s office.

Tanzler has also criticized Rutherford for no longer supporting the death penalty. The former sheriff said his position has evolved on the issue.

“I still believe in a moral war. I believe in self defense. I have absolutely no problem with an officer using lethal force to capture an aggravated felony suspect,” he said. "What I oppose and what I think is a degradation of the sanctity of life is when you take someone who has been locked up — they’re no longer a threat to anyone. ... I think that’s a degradation of life.”                        

Rutherford has been criticized by others for standing behind Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Rutherford said while Trump wasn’t his first choice, he is the party’s candidate and feels obligated to support him since the next president will fill at least one seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.