Dawn Geske Jul. 18, 2016, 8:56pm


FLEMING ISLAND – The first candidate forum for Florida’s state attorney election heated up with Melissa Nelson focusing the discussion on change for the office.

Fourth Circuit State Attorney candidates met for the first candidate forum in Fleming Island recently. Challengers Wes White, Melissa Nelson and Angela Cory all were on site for the discussions that had Nelson taking the lead on what she actually plans to do once in office.

Nelson, who has been showing a lead in recent polls, discussed why it was time for change in the state attorney’s office as well as highlighting the fact that she wants to bring fairness, transparency, accountability and integrity to the office.

“We came out with a poll a couple weeks ago that had her (Nelson) up double digits, said Michael M. Binder, assistant professor at the University of North Florida, told the Florida Record. “There was a poll a couple of weeks before that that had her up double digits as well. She is bringing in a lot of money, which is very helpful. As a challenger, you’re always struggling for name recognition and being able to run radio and television ads. It certainly helps in that regard.”

During the forum, Nelson discussed her goal to improve the public’s confidence in the judicial system through community prosecution. She has maintained that she will guarantee a criminal justice system that is tough, but fair. She has also said that she will uphold the Constitution.

“It’s one of these races for office that aren’t political necessarily,” said Binder. “She’s trying to be a state attorney. That job isn’t Congress. It isn’t mayor. It’s not these offices that we typically think of with an elected position. So you need to think about how you relate to the voter. It’s a different sales pitch so certainly attacking the incumbent because the incumbent had bad votes on a bill is impossible in her shoes because of the office. What she can do is attempt to attack the integrity of office and incompetence of the system.”

As far as Nelson’s chances for overtaking incumbent Corey, Binder said they look pretty good.

“It appears that there is a lot of support in the legal community," he said. "It appears that she is gaining some traction in the populous as well.”

Nelson’s campaign has seen a huge bolster in funding coming through in the last few weeks, which during the forum she was quick to point out that she has raised more money in the few days she has been running than her opponents have together in a year. Coming to the race later than the other candidates, Nelson’s campaign has enough money and resources to support her in the race for state attorney.

“I think this race is going to be an interesting race,” said Binder. “I think Melissa Nelson is in a great position.”

Nelson is a conservative and an attorney for McGuireWoods. Prior to joining McGuireWoods, Nelson spent 12 years as criminal prosecutor at the state attorney’s office.

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