Republican John Rutherford will defeat Democrat David E. Bruderly in Florida’s 4th District, The Associated Press projects.
Rutherford led Bruderly 71.1 percent to 27.1 percent with 0 percent of precincts reporting.
Incumbent GOP Rep. Ander Crenshaw is retiring after eight terms.
Florida’s 4th District takes in parts of Duval (including outer areas of Jacksonville), Nassau and St. Johns counties along the state's northeastern coast. The district lines changed this year after court-approved redistricting redrew Florida’s congressional map. But the district remains heavily Republican.
Coming into Election Day, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rated the race as Safe Republican. In his eight elections in the district, Crenshaw never won by less than a 30-point margin.
Rutherford skipped an Oct. 26 debate, angling to avoid damage at the hands of Bruderly and two independents, Danny Murphy and Gary Koniz.
He comes to the House after a 41-year career in law enforcement. He began as a patrolman at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 1974 and was elected sheriff in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
Rutherford won the Aug. 30 Republican primary with 39 percent against six candidates.
His experience has led to an interest in mental health treatment. “I ran a jail that, sadly, was the largest residential mental health care facility in the county,” he recalls.
Rutherford is deeply skeptical of legalizing marijuana and shortening prison sentences for people with nonviolent drug offenses. He opposed a 2014 ballot measure in Florida, Proposition 2, that would have legalized medicinal use of marijuana.
With an eye on a position on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rutherford is a booster for the Port of Jacksonville, which is adjacent to two interstate highways and to a CSX railroad line.
Rutherford also is interested in serving on the Armed Services Committee so that he can look after his district’s military assets, the Jacksonville Naval Air Station and Mayport, the Navy’s second-largest Atlantic Fleet home port.