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Lakesha Burton and T.K. Waters neck and neck in sheriff's race

All five Jacksonville sheriff's candidates joined a forum at the Istanbul Center on July 20, 2022.

Democrat Lakesha Burton and Republican T.K. Waters are running in a virtual tie for the job of Jacksonville sheriff, a new poll found.

The poll from the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab shows Waters with 41% support and Burton with 39%. The margin of error is +/- 5.9 percentage points, meaning it could go either way.

Trailing the two frontrunners are Democrats Ken Jefferson (8%), Tony Cummings (5%) and Wayne Clark (4%).

The five candidates are seeking to replace former Sheriff Mike Williams, who resigned this year after news emerged that he had moved outside Duval County.

The UNF poll, released Wednesday, was based on a random sample of 491 likely primary voters in Duval County. It was conducted Aug. 8-12.

The poll also found:

School tax

Fifty-one percent of respondents said they would vote in favor of a 1-mill property tax increase for teacher pay and programs in Duval County schools. Forty-five percent said they'd vote no. Support was split along party lines, with 71% of Democrats supporting the tax and 63% of Republicans opposing it.

"People typically don't mind taxes, if it's targeted toward a specific outcome," Michael Binder, faculty director of the research lab, said Wednesday on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross. “People tend to be more supportive of taxes when they go towards schools; people tend to be more supportive of taxes when there's not organized opposition. And all three of those boxes gets checked here."

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Binder said he would have expected more support for the tax, however. "The thing that I think may be hurting this a little bit is the politicization of teachers and school boards over the last couple of years," Binder said "This is going to be much closer than I envisioned."

Mayoral race

Democrat Donna Deegan has the most support with 31%, followed by Republican Daniel Davis in a distant second with 11% and Democrat Audrey Gibson with 10%. Twenty percent of respondents said they don’t know or refused to answer. "That's completely understandable, because nobody's really even campaigning yet actively," Binder said.

The election is scheduled for March 2023. "Once we get through the midterms, I would expect this campaign to heat up," Binder said. "There are a number of candidates with large sums of money and some that expect to get more. This is going to be quite a race."

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at or on Twitter, @rroguski.