Jacksonville, Fl — Two of the biggest issues facing Jacksonville voters in this primary should be settled by this time next week. A new snapshot of the race for Jacksonville Sheriff shows a tight contest at the top of a crowded field of contenders.
Likely primary voters put T.K. Waters ahead of Lakesha Burton by two points in a poll by the Public Opinion Research Lab at the University of North Florida.
Neither has enough support to win outright in the poll - that would require at least 50% of the vote to avoid a November runoff.
The other three challengers, Ken Jefferson, Tony Cummings and Wayne Clark, are way behind in the single digits.
“With TK Waters and Lakesha Burton neck-in-neck in a crowded field, there’s a good chance this race will go to a runoff in November,” said Dr. Michael Binder, PORL faculty director and UNF professor of political science. “If that happens, it will add a very competitive local race to the midterm elections.”
A proposed property tax increase for Duval County schools - which includes teacher pay increases - shows just enough support for it to pass. But the margin is very close, as only 51% say they would vote in favor of the millage increase and 45% would vote no.
Support for the measure is split along party lines, with 71% of Democrats supporting, and 63% of Republicans opposed. “I was a bit surprised the numbers were so close with only a slight majority indicating a ‘yes’ vote for the millage increase,” said Binder. “I thought it would be polling higher, but it’s not entirely surprising to see a partisan split here, especially since public education has become so politicized the last couple years.”
Early voting in Duval County ends on Sunday and Primary Day is Tuesday.
The poll also looked ahead to the 2023 Jacksonville Mayoral election. Democrat Donna Deegan has the most support with 31%. She is followed by Republican Daniel Davis at 11%. Davis has yet to formally file to run but is widely expected to do so.
Democrat Audrey Gibson comes in at 10%. Twenty percent of respondents say they don’t know or refused to answer.
“We’re still seven months out and this list of candidates will undoubtedly change as we get closer to the mayoral race in 2023,” said Binder. “For now, at least, Donna Deegan is the clear frontrunner with a 20-point lead.”
Respondents were also asked whether they would support the City of Jacksonville splitting the cost of a new or improved stadium with the Jaguars. 67% said they were opposed to spending $375 million of public funds on a new roof for the stadium, with 32% supporting. When asked about spending up to $850 million of public funds on a new stadium, 80% were opposed, while just 19% expressed support.
“Not much has changed since the last time we polled on this issue in February when most Duval voters opposed splitting the $1 billion cost of a new stadium,” Binder noted. “Folks seem slightly more open to spending taxpayer dollars on a new roof but still a wide majority are opposed. Although a few more wins by the Jags could certainly change these numbers a little.”
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