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T.K. Waters is Jacksonville's next sheriff

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Claire Heddles
/
Jacksonville Today
Republican T.K Waters, left, celebrates his win at a watch party in Jacksonville's San Marco neighborhood.

T.K. Waters, a former chief of investigations for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, will take over the top seat after securing 55% of the vote Tuesday.

Waters, a Republican endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, focused his campaign on increasing the number of police officers in the streets and decreasing the size of officers' beats.

"The campaigning is over. Now it's time to get to work," Waters told supporters at a watch party at PRI Productions in San Marco on Tuesday.

"We're going to take care of the people in our city, because it's absolutely the best city in the entire world," Waters said.

His opponent, Democrat Lakesha Burton, campaigned on preventative policing and creating an adult civil citation program for low-level nonviolent crimes. She earned 45% of the votes.

"I worked really hard. I ran with integrity, and I left it all on the court," Burton said during an election watch party at Southbank Hotel.

Waters "knows that with our record high murder and violent crime rate, we are not heading in the right direction. He has his work cut out for him, and I am still here," Burton said.

Waters will hold the seat until June 2023, what would have been the end of the term for former Sheriff Mike Williams, who resigned after revelations that he had lived for the past year outside Duval County.

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Claire Heddles
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Jacksonville Today
Democrat Lakesha Burton has not announced whether she will run in the sheriff's race again in March.

Waters will have to run again in the March primaries to keep the seat during the next four-year sheriff's term, starting July 1, 2023.

In response to questions from WJCT News about whether she will campaign again in March, Lakesha Burton said Tuesday, "I want to get through tonight first, then we'll see."

In the weeks leading up to the election, the third-place finisher in the August primary, Democrat Ken Jefferson, endorsed Waters.

During Waters' watch party Tuesday, Jefferson told WJCT News, "There were many [people] that called me, texted me, stopped in the street to tell me that 'we trust you, we know you and we're going to follow your lead and vote for T.K.'"

Burton has alleged that Jefferson was promised a job in exchange for his endorsement. Jefferson soundly rebutted that allegation, telling WJCT News on Tuesday, "Nothing has been promised to me, nothing has been offered to me."

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Claire Heddles
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Jacksonville Today
Waters had a military tank with his campaign flag outside his Election Day watch party.

Two Democratic candidates from the August primary endorsed Burton: Wayne Clark and Tony Cummings. Both were at her watch party Tuesday and said they hoped she'd have a historic win. Burton would have been the first Black woman in the top role in the Sheriff's Office.

More than $4 million dollars went into the high profile sheriff's race this election cycle. Between his campaign and PAC donations, Waters raised $2.3 million. With her PAC and campaign account, Burton raised more than $1.7 million.

Both raised more than three times the top-funded candidate in the last Jacksonville sheriff election cycle in 2015 — Mike Williams with about half-million dollars.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.