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Rep. Lake Ray Announces Congressional Run

Ryan Benk

Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford is getting some stiff competition for Congressman Ander Crenshaw's soon-to-be vacated district 4 seat from within his own party.

Representative Lake Ray, R-Jacksonville, is joining the fray for the August Republican primary.

Ray, who was first elected in 2008, reaches his term limit this year. The civil engineer and former Jacksonville city councilman is also the current Duval County GOP chairman. He's been a staunch supporter of business interests, including dredging the St. Johns River. Over the years, Ray has developed strong ties in Jacksonville and has been a major player in the Legislature's transportation and ports policy arena.

Ray faces 12-year law enforcement veteran Rutherford, who has already received high profile endorsements from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and major Republican fundraisers like Jax Chamber and Florida State University board member Ed Burr.

But that’s why Ray said he might have a leg up with voters.

“I’ve been hearing what people are concerned about. They are concerned about people that are having coronations of congressman rather than elections for congressman. I believe the citizens of this region will not be very happy about someone being appointed as congressman,” he said.

In his announcement Tuesday, Ray said he has the legislative experience to raise funds from Washington. 

“There’s a vacuum now in leadership in congress. There’s a vacuum now in Tallahassee and our regional area is now suffering from that,” he said.

Ray originally supported Florida-born, former Speaker of the Statehouse Marco Rubio, but Ray's own party voters overwhelmingly chose Donald Trump in the primary contest.

Ray could benefit in a presidential election year when anti-establishment fervor is winning over Republican voters. The 59-year-old may strike a chord with voters with immigration and trade stances similar to Trump.

Ray's recent positions include his support of closing Florida's borders to Syrian refugees and is an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama's trade policy. 

GOP voters will choose between Rutherford and Ray on August 30. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated with comment from Ray.

 Lake Ray

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.