The 4th congressional district in Northeast Florida has been an anomaly for the last twenty-four years. In 1992 the district was radically changed by the Florida Legislature to create a base for a rabidly conservative member of Congress.
However, the voters of the district have elected moderates Republicans Tillie K. Fowler and Ander Crenshaw. This week congressman Crenshaw announced his retirement, setting off a last minute frenzy of ambitious Republicans. Crenshaw’s retirement likely will mark the end of moderate Republicans holding the district 4 seat.
The first announced candidate is former sheriff of Jacksonville/Duval County, John Rutherford. Rutherford has never been shy about his political ambition. He has discussed running for the Florida legislature and was actively considering moving to a run for the congressional seat south of district 4.
As the former sheriff, he consistently blamed others for Jacksonville’s rising crime rate, but has accepted credit for years when the crime rate decreased. In his announcement Rutherford stated, “I would point to a proven record of principled leadership, honor and integrity.”
Rutherford has also been candid about his views. He discussed his pro-life position saying, “The whole culture of death we have created, it’s a major problem. Whether you kill a baby in the womb or a woman on First and Main, it’s the same thing.”
Former Republican Party of Florida chairman and current Jacksonville mayor, Lenny Curry, has said he will support Rutherford. Curry, no longer the official chairman of the Florida Republican Party, stays active in statewide electoral politics though his political action committee. It provides funding for favored Republican candidates and political attack advertising.
Rutherford also has the support of local political kingpin and former Disney executive, Peter Rummell. Rummel’s support has proved decisive in the last two mayoral elections.
Those considering a run have informed the media about the deluge of encouragement they are receiving. One potential candidate, property appraiser Jerry Holland, has invited people to encourage him on Facebook. First-term state representative, Jay Fant, is exploring the opportunity as well. Both Holland and Fant have enough family wealth to self-fund much of their potential campaigns. Holland has said his wife is willing to contribute $500,000 to his campaign.
A bevy of legislators are considering the race including former city councilman, Richard Clark, first-term state senator, Aaron Bean, and state representative, Lake Ray. Local tax collector, Michael Corrigan, and supervisor of elections, Mike Hogan, have also expressed an interest.
Local columnist, A. G. Gancarski has written, that the race “will be decided in the GOP primary.” For a district that has voted for Republican Presidential candidates by an average margin of 26 percent and is ranked R+17 by the Cook Partisan Voting Index, that may be a safe bet.