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Republican Frontrunners Spar Over TV Ad At Congressional Forum

Ryan Benk

Republicans vying to replace outgoing Congressman Ander Crenshaw shared a stage at the Jacksonville Zoo Tuesday for a forum hosted by Northside business leaders.

They’re all running against what they call “big government.”

The heavily Republican District 4 covers much of Duval, Nassau and Baker counties. On Tuesday, the seven candidates didn’t answer many specific questions.

All paint themselves as “outsiders,” and all expressed at least some support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Most avoided addressing each other directly, with the exception of former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, the frontrunner, and businessman and former water board appointee Hanz Tanzler.

Rutherford called out Tanzler for calling him liberal.

“I was surprised, as I’m sure you were surprised, to read recently, or see on television, that somehow I’m opposed to the Second Amendment; that I’m opposed to stand your ground; that I support a national registry for firearms; and that I created a sanctuary city in Jacksonville,” Rutherford said.

A" target="_blank">Tanzler-sponsored TV ad slams the former sheriff for a hands-off approach to deporting undocumented immigrants and opposing the death penalty.

Rutherford calls the ad “lies,” but Tanzler is standing by it.

“The suggestion that our former sheriff was liberal was taken from articles in the Florida Times-Union, one of them in 2006, where he was quoted as giving sanctuary to illegal immigrants, that they should not worry,” Tanzler said.

That article was written after a few high-profile assaults on the city’s Hispanics. Rutherford met with fearful members of the community and implored those who were scared not to seek protection from gangs and instead call police regardless of their residency status.

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.