Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said Friday he will enter the race for the 4th Congressional District, which blew wide open earlier this week when incumbent U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw said he would not seek re-election.
“Someone has to go up there and restore values and defend our nation,” Rutherford, a Republican, said. “We have to create an environment where business can grow and thrive.”
Rutherford quickly became a formidable candidate for the office, winning the support of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and major GOP donor Peter Rummell even before he had committed to run. He is the first high-profile candidate to announce a run, and he picked up more significant backers shortly after his announcement Friday from prominent civic leaders. Insurance executive Tom Petway, former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, former Ambassador John Rood and businessman and Jacksonville Civic Council Chairman Ed Burr are supporting Rutherford, according to Curry. All four men were major Curry supporters.
The county’s longtime top lawman is widely recognized in the city. First elected in 2003 with 78 percent of the vote, Rutherford also remained popular throughout his tenure. A University of North Florida poll in 2014 found he had a 66 percent approval rating. Curry’s campaign recognized Rutherford’s popularity, making him a highly visible surrogate in last year’s mayoral race.
That name recognition is a major asset in a race that will escalate quickly. The Republican primary is Aug. 30.
“I would point to a proven record of principled leadership, honor and integrity, that’s necessary to make the kinds of decisions that need to be made in Washington, D.C.,” Rutherford said.
It’s not clear whether any other well-known Republican will jump into the race.
Several names of current and former elected officials have been floated as potential candidates, and some have said they are weighing a decision to run. The 4th district — which covers Nassau and Baker counties and most of Duval County — has a conservative voting history, giving the Republican primary significant weight.
Duval County Tax Collector Mike Corrigan and Property Appraiser Jerry Holland are considering a run. So is State Rep. Lake Ray, who is term-limited.
A Facebook page also popped up urging Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, a mayoral candidate in 2011, to run.
The deadline for filing to run for Crenshaw’s seat is June 24. There is only one Republican who has officially filed to run for the District 4 seat. Deborah Katz Pueschel, who ran as a write-in candidate against Crenshaw in 2014, filed Thursday.
Originally posted on Florida Times-Union