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Jacksonville Sheriff Debate Gets Personal

The candidates for Jacksonville sheriff faced off in an, at-times, bitter and personal debate Tuesday night at the First Coast News studios.

Democrat Ken Jefferson and Republican Mike Williams answered questions about teen violence, body cameras and recent unrest in Baltimore, among other issues.

In his closing statement, Jefferson defended himself against a public attack by the Williams campaign.

“I saw the postcard that you mailed out trying to politicize my financial past,” he said, “but what you failed to mention was the eight times you failed to pay your mortgage and took your house into foreclosure with a $100,000 salary.”

Williams struck at Jefferson by accusing him of forging his boss’s signature while working at the police department 20 years ago. Jefferson admitted he signed the man’s name but said he’d been given permission to do so.

Finally, Williams said he’s the only candidate with experience as a supervisor in the sheriff’s office.

“I can tell you I make decisions that are grounded in my faith, I make decisions that are accountable to my family and this community, and I make decisions based on real experience,” Williams said.

Jefferson responded that he may not have been a supervisor, but he’s always been a natural leader and he’s been in charge of projects that made him directly accountable to the sheriff.

The debate was a partnership between First Coast News, the Florida Times-Union and WJCT.

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP