John Henry Rutherford (/ˈrʌðərfərd/; born September 2, 1952) is an American politician. Since 2017, he has been a Republican Party member of the United States House of Representatives, elected from Florida’s 4th congressional district, which encompasses most of Jacksonville and most of its suburbs in Nassau and St. Johns counties, including St. Augustine.

He was an officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office before serving as the Duval County sheriff from 2003 to 2015. By 2011 the City of Jacksonville was experiencing the lowest Murder and overall violent crime rate in over 40 years.

Early life and education

John Rutherford was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1952.[1] Rutherford’s father was in the US Navy and was serving in Korea at the time of his son’s birth. In the 1950s, Rutherford’s family moved to Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from Nathan Bedford Forest High School in 1970.[2] He surfed in his free time.[3] In 1972, he earned his Associate of Science in criminology from Florida State College at Jacksonville, formerly Florida Junior College, followed by his Bachelor of Science in criminology from Florida State University in 1974.[1]

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office

Rutherford as Jacksonville sheriff

Rutherford spent 41 years at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, first as a sheriff’s deputy and for the final 12 years as the elected sheriff.[3] He joined the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in 1974 as a patrolman.[4] He was promoted to sergeant in 1980[3] and ultimately rose to the rank of captain.[3] At various points, he commanded the Arson and Burglary divisions, led the Police Academy, and led Patrol units on the Southside. He was also Chief of Services, Traffic and Special Operations, and Chief of Patrol.[4] He was appointed director of corrections in 1995[4] by then-Sheriff Nat Glover.[3] In that role, he was responsible for overseeing the jail.[3]

Rutherford ran for the office of Jacksonville Sheriff in 2003. A candidate for the Jacksonville City Council filed a complaint against Rutherford in February, alleging violations of the Federal Hatch Act of 1939, which prohibits employees working for federally funded agencies from running for office in partisan elections. Rutherford said that a lawyer had told him there was no conflict, but he retired in March 2003 anyway, in order to remove any doubt, with 28 years of service.[5]

The Florida Times-Union reported in 2015, “Supporters and even those who criticize him say Rutherford has been steadfast and unwavering in his faith and his convictions as a lawman, a trait some say has brought success while others say is to his detriment.”[3] Rutherford’s tenure was marked by rises and falls in crime: From 2002 to 2005, Jacksonville suffered from an increase in murder and other violent crime; murders briefly declined in 2005, but then rose again each year until 2008, when another decline began.[3] In 2007, the Florida Times-Union endorsed him for reelection—saying that Rutherford was generally moving his department “in a positive direction”—but criticized the pace and inadequacies of key initiatives such as reducing the murder rate, tackling illegal guns, and initiating a management audit.[6] Overall, the Jacksonville crime rate was about the same at the beginning and end of Rutherford’s tenure.[3]

As sheriff, Rutherford was a staunch critic of State Attorney Harry Shorstein and an ally of his successor, Angela Corey.[3] He was credited with improving the sheriff’s department’s capacities to deal with mental health matters and his oversight of a prisoner reentry program, but was criticized over enduring tensions and a lack of trust between the local African American community and police, as well as a high number of police shootings by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.[3] According to a Wall Street Journal report, Jacksonville had the ninth-highest rate of justifiable homicides among the U.S.’s 105 largest police department efforts between 2007 and 2012.[3]

U.S. House of Representatives

Rutherford meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on board Air Force Two, March 2017


After initially considered a run for the state House,[7] Rutherford announced his candidacy for Florida’s 4th congressional district on April 15, 2016, for the open seat created by the retirement of the Republican incumbent, Ander Crenshaw.[8] Originally he announced he would run for Florida’s 6th congressional district in 2015.[9] Because the 4th district is a Republican safe seat, Rutherford was heavily favored in each election.[10][11][12]

In the August 2016 Republican primary, Rutherford faced State Representative Lake Ray, St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure and former St. Johns Water Management District executive director Hans Tanzler III.[13][14] Rutherford won the nomination with 38.7% of the vote, defeating Ray (who took 20.1%), Tanzler (who took 19.0%), and McClure (who took 9.8%).[15] In the general election, Rutherford defeated Democratic nominee David Bruderly,[12] taking 70.2% to Bruderly’s 27.6%.[16]

In 2018, Rutherford was challenged by Democrat nominee Ges Selmont, a Ponte Vedra Beach attorney.[17] Rutherford won reelection with 65.2% of the vote; Selmont received 32.4%.[18]

In 2020, Rutherford won re-nomination in a low-key Republican primary, defeating retired Navy chief petty officer Erick Aguilar;[19] Rutherford won 80.2% of the primary vote to Aguilar’s 19.8%.[20] In the 2020 general election, Rutherford defeated Democratic nominee Donna Deegan, a former local TV anchor and breast cancer awareness advocate.[11] Rutherford received 61.1% of the vote to Deegan’s 38.9%.[21]


On January 11, 2017, Rutherford collapsed on the floor of the House, in what his staffers described as an described as an “acute digestive flare up”;[22][23][24][25] he was taken to the hospital, and released ten days later.[26][27]

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Political positions

While in the House, Rutherford aligned himself with President Donald Trump,[10] voting in line with Trump’s position 96.6% of the time.[30] He voted against a majority of fellow Republicans approximately 3.9% of the time.[31]

Gun policy

In 2017, Rutherford voted for a measure to make permits for the concealed carrying of firearms valid across state lines.[30] Also in 2017, Rutherford signed a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives expressing his support for legislation to ban bump stocks.[32] In 2019, he voted against universal background checks for firearm purchases and voted against giving additional time to law enforcement agencies to conduct background checks on firearm purchasers.[30]

From 2015 to 2016, Rutherford received $1,000 in campaign donations from the NRA‘s Political Victory Fund.[33]

In 2018, Rutherford sponsored a bill, the STOP (Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing) School Violence Act, which authorized $50 million a year to create a federal grant program “to train students, teachers and law enforcement on how to spot and report signs of gun violence”; the House approved the bill on a 407–10. The bill authorized funding for the development of “anonymous telephone and online systems where people could report threats of violence” and for “$25 million for schools to “improve and harden their security, such as installing new locks, lights, metal detectors and panic buttons.”[34] A separate spending bill would be required to provide money for the grant program;[34] Rutherford sought to include such funding as part of an omnibus spending bill.[35]


Rutherford voted to rescind the Stream Protection Rule.[30] In interviews in 2016[36] and 2019,[37] Rutherford acknowledged the existence of climate change but questioned the scientific consensus that human activity has caused the increase in warming.[37] On 2019, Rutherford voted against a measure to block Trump from withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.[30] Rutherford has expressed concern over sea level rise, which would adversely impact St. Augustine.[37][38] He has criticized the Green New Deal proposal as a “socialist manifesto”[37] and in 2018 voted for a resolution opposing a carbon tax.[30]

Rutherford joined Representative Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey to introduce the Atlantic Coastal Economies Protection Act, which would prohibit seismic air gun testing in the Atlantic Ocean.[39] In 2019, in a rare break with Trump’s position,[10][30] Rutherford voted in favor of legislation to ban offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast, Pacific coast, and eastern Gulf of Mexico coast.[30] In 2019, Rutherford introduced bipartisan legislation (cosponsored by eight Florida Democrats and nine Florida Republicans) to extend a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in federal waters off Florida’s Gulf Coast until 2029, and to create a similar moratorium on offshore drilling in federal waters off Florida’s South Atlantic coast and in the Straits of Florida.[40]

Health care

Rutherford supported the unsuccessful 2017 effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a key Republican priority.[10] In 2021, Rutherford sponsored legislation seeking to block the government from asking passengers on domestic flights whether they had been vaccinated against COVID-19.[41]

LGBT rights

Rutherford voted against the Equality Act in 2019[42][43] and 2021.[44] He voted against a 2019 measure that opposing a ban on openly transgender people serving in the U.S. military.[30]

Policing and criminal justice

One of two former sheriffs in Congress,[10] Rutherford is “skeptical” of shorter prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses,[1] but in December 2018 voted in favor of the First Step Act (legislation amending federal sentencing and prison laws).[30] During his campaign for Congress, he referred to Black Lives Matter as a “hate group“;[10] in 2020, he voted against George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police reform bill aimed are preventing brutality and racial discrimination in policing.[30][45] Rutherford defended the doctrine of qualified immunity for police officers.[45]

Rutherford opposes capital punishment,[10][7] citing his Catholic faith.[7]

Economy, trade, and taxation

Rutherford voted against an increase in the federal hourly minimum wage to $15.[30] He voted in favor of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement.[30] He voted against a $3 trillion COVID-19 economic rescue package in May 2020, but voted in favor of a pandemic relief bill in December 2020.[30] Rutherford voted against a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill in 2020.[30]

Rutherford voted in favor of the 2017 Republican tax bill,[46] a measure that Rutherford praised as good for the economy.[47] Rutherford voted against legislation to repeal the cap on state and local tax deductions.[30]

In 2018, Rutherford voted in favor of legislation that repealed some of the Dodd-Frank banking regulations.[30] He voted against a bill to restrict companies from imposing mandatory arbitration clauses.[30]

During the 2018–2019 federal government shutdown, Rutherford against bills to reopen the government without money that Trump had demanded for construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall.[30]

Rutherford voted against restoring net neutrality regulations.[30]

Foreign and military policy

Rutherford voted against legislation in February 2019 and April 2019 to end U.S. military assistance to the Saudi Arabian war against Yemen.[30] He voted against legislation in July 2019 to block U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.[30] In October 2019, he voted against a measure opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.[30] In January 2020, he voted against a bill to restrict Trump from initiating military action against Iran without approval by Congress.[30]

Rutherford’s district includes two major U.S. Navy bases (Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport), and while in the House, he has pressed issues important to the base, and like other members of Florida’s delegation, he pressed for two squadrons of the F-35 Lightning II to be based in Jacksonville.[10]

Donald Trump

Rutherford defended some of Trump’s most controversial statements and actions as president, including Trump’s pardon of ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio and Trump’s comments after a deadly far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.[10] Rutherford voted against both Trump’s first impeachment (in 2019, on articles of obstruction of Congress and abuse of power) and Trump’s second impeachment (in 2021, on an article of incitement of insurrection).[30]

Effort to overturn 2020 election result

Rutherford initially refused to acknowledge the results of the 2020 presidential election, in which Trump was defeated by challenger Joe Biden. Rutherford echoed Trump’s false claims of election fraud and suggested that Republican-controlled state legislatures in swing states won by Biden could hold a “decertification vote” that would lead to the U.S. House voting to select the next president, although he acknowledged that this attempt was unlikely to prevail.[48] On January 7, 2021, after the Capitol was attacked by a pro-Trump mob in an attempted insurrection, Rutherford was one of 138 House Republicans who voted not to count the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania, despite a number of audits and recounts confirming the election outcome in those states.[49]

In December 2020, Rutherford was one of 126 Republican members of the House of Representatives who signed an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the U.S. Supreme Court which sought to overturn the election results.[50] over incumbent Donald Trump. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case on the basis that Texas lacked standing under Article III of the Constitution to challenge the results of the election held by another state.[51][52][53]

After Trump was impeached for his role in inciting a pro-Trump mob to storm the U.S. Capitol over false claims of election fraud, Rutherford condemned his fellow Republican, Representative Liz Cheney, for voting to impeach Trump. Rutherford accused Cheney of not being a “team player.”[54]


In 2018, Rutherford defended the Trump administration policy of separating parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border, and opposed legislation that would end the practice.[55] After coming under pressure, Trump reversed his policy, a move that Rutherford welcomed.[56]

In 2017, Rutherford introduced legislation to create a path to citizenship for holders of E-2 Treaty Investor Visas, a special visa for business owners.[57] In 2019, Rutherford voted against legislation to establish a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.[30]

Social issues

Rutherford opposes abortion.[58] In interviews in 2015, Rutherford contended that the United States had a “culture of death” which he attributed to Roe v. Wade[7][58] and violent video games and movies.[7]

Rutherford opposes the legalization of marijuana. He voted against the 2014 ballot initiative to legal medicinal marijuana in Florida, believing that it would ultimately lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana[1] and that it would lead to marijuana “in every backpack in every high school in Duval County.”[59]


Rutherford has supported the use of earmarks and has called for the elimination or restriction of the U.S. Senate rule that requires 60 Senate votes to invoke cloture (i.e., end debate on bills); he describes both proposals as a way to facilitate compromise between the parties and reduce gridlock.[10][60] Rutherford has said that he supports local referenda to resolve disputes over the fate of public Confederate monuments.[10] Rutherford voted against statehood for the District of Columbia.[30]


Rutherford campaigned for Duval County sheriff, running against fellow Republicans David Anderson and Lem Sharp. In the election on April 15, 2003, Rutherford won 135,038 votes, 78 percent of the total. He took office on July 1, 2003. Rutherford was re-elected in 2007 and 2011.[61]

On August 30, 2016, he won the Republican Primary for Florida’s 4th Congressional District.[62]

2016 Florida 4th Congressional District Republican Primary Results[63]
RepublicanJohn Rutherford38,68838.7%
RepublicanLake Ray20,11120.1%
RepublicanHans Tanzler III18,99919.0%
RepublicanBill McClure9,8549.8%
RepublicanEdward Malin7,8797.9%
RepublicanStephen Kaufman2,4132.4%
RepublicanDeborah Katz Pueschel2,1372.1%
Total votes100,081 100

Personal life

Rutherford is married to his wife, Patricia, and has two children.[22][1] Rutherford is Catholic.[7][1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f “2016 Guide to the New Congress” (PDF). CQ Magazine. 4 (32): 30. November 10, 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 24, 2018. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  2. ^ “Voteview | Rep. RUTHERFORD, John Henry (Republican, FL-4): Rep. RUTHERFORD is more conservative than 63% of the 117th House, and more liberal than 76% of Republicans”. Retrieved August 24, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Treen, Dana. “Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford saying farewell after 41 years of service”. Florida Times-Union. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Mitchell, Tia (March 13, 2003). “Veteran cop Rutherford has vision for Sheriff’s Office”. Florida Times-Union. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007.
  5. ^ Mitchell, Tia. “Candidates accused of violating law”. Florida Times-Union.
  6. ^ “DUVAL COUNTY SHERIFF: Rutherford is slow, on track”. Florida Times-Union. March 3, 2007. Archived from the original on March 5, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Jim Piggott, Sheriff speaks out against death penalty, may run for state House seat, WJXT (January 24, 2015).
  8. ^ Nate Monroe (April 15, 2016). “Former Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford runs for U.S. Rep. Crenshaw’s seat”. Florida Times-Union.
  9. ^ “Sheriff John Rutherford confirms he’s running for Ron DeSantis seat”.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Nate Monroe, Eight months in office, U.S. Rep. Rutherford backs Trump, laments partisanship, Florida Times-Union (September 5, 2017).
  11. ^ a b David Bauerlein, Race between Rutherford and Deegan pits two well-known candidates for Congress, Florida Times-Union (October 21, 2020).
  12. ^ a b David Bauerlein, Rutherford powers to lopsided win in congressional race, Florida Times-Union (November 7, 2016).
  13. ^ Nate Monroe (August 17, 2016). “4th District Congressional candidates agree on key conservative principles at debate”. Florida Times-Union.
  14. ^ “Hans Tanzler III jumps into growing GOP field for 4th Congressional District”. Florida Times-Union. May 5, 2016.
  15. ^ August 30, 2016 Primary Election: Republican Primary, Florida Division of Elections.
  16. ^ November 8, 2016 General Election, Florida Division of Elections.
  17. ^ Melissa Ross, Selmont Hoping To Unseat Rutherford In District 4 Congressional Race, WJCT (October 9, 2018).
  18. ^ November 6, 2018 General Election, Florida Division of Elections.
  19. ^ David Bauerlein, Congressman John Rutherford faces GOP challenger as he eyes match-up with Donna Deegan, Florida Times-Union (August 8, 2020).
  20. ^ August 18, 2020 Primary Election, Florida Division of Elections.
  21. ^ November 3, 2020 General Election, Florida Division of Elections.
  22. ^ a b Winkle, Amanda (January 12, 2017). “U.S. Rep., former Jacksonville sheriff John Rutherford to be back to full strength in little time”. WJAX.
  23. ^ “Florida congressman taken from Capitol on stretcher”. Associated Press. January 11, 2017.
  24. ^ Cheney, Kyle; Bresnahan, John (January 11, 2017). “Fla. lawmaker taken from Capitol on stretcher”. Politico. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  25. ^ Wong, Scott (January 11, 2017). “Congressman collapses in House cloakroom”. The Hill. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  26. ^ Rahman, Rema (January 19, 2017). “John Rutherford Continues Recuperation”. Roll Call. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  27. ^ “Congressman John Rutherford has been released from the hospital”. WTLV First Coast News. January 22, 2017. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  28. ^ “Members”. Republican Mains Street Partnership. Archived from the original on August 26, 2018. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  29. ^ “Members”. Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump: John Rutherford, Republican representative for Florida’s 4th District, FiveThirtyEight (2021).
  31. ^ John Rutherford (R-Fla.), Represent Project, ProPublica (2020).
  32. ^ Dean, Ed (October 9, 2017). “Jacksonville Congressman John Rutherford vs. The National Rifle Association????”. WBOB. CP Broadcasting. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  33. ^ Grinberg, Emanuella (February 21, 2018). “These Florida lawmakers accepted money from the National Rifle Association”. CNN. Atlanta. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  34. ^ a b Zanona, Melanie. “House passes school safety bill amid gun protests”. The Hill. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  35. ^ Wong, Scott. “Five things lawmakers want attached to the $1 trillion funding bill”. The Hill. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  36. ^ Ellen Cranley, These are the 130 current members of Congress who have doubted or denied climate change, Business Insider (April 29, 2019).
  37. ^ a b c d Brendan Rivers, Rutherford: Green New Deal A ‘Socialist Manifesto’ Dressed As Environmental Proposal, WJCT (February 21, 2019).
  38. ^ Sheldon Gardner, Rutherford says sea level rise, health care are among priorities, St. Augustine Record (February 1, 2020).
  39. ^ Brunetti Post, Michelle (February 11, 2019). “Van Drew introduces bill to ban seismic testing in Atlantic”. Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved February 13, 2019.
  40. ^ Steve Patterson, Rutherford aims to ban offshore drilling around Florida, Florida Times-Union (June 28, 2019).
  41. ^ Syndey Boles, Florida Legislators Lead Federal Push To Ban Vaccine Passports at Airports, WJCT (July 1, 2021).
  42. ^ FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 217: On Passage, Equality Act, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives (May 17, 2019).
  43. ^ Steve Contorno, How Florida members of Congress voted on historic LGBTQ protection bill, Tampa Bay Times (May 17, 2019).
  44. ^ Congressional Votes: Rutherford, Waltz vote against Equality Bill, Targeted News Service/St. Augustine Record (February 27, 2021).
  45. ^ a b Steven Nelson, House Democrats pass police reform bill that will likely be blocked by Senate, New York Post (June 25, 2020).
  46. ^ Almukhtar, Sarah (December 19, 2017). “How Each House Member Voted on the Tax Bill”. The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  47. ^ Brown, Stephanie. “Northeast Florida lawmakers divided on impact of tax reform plan”. WOKV. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  48. ^ Anne Schindler, John Rutherford to reject Electoral College results showing Joe Biden won the election, First Coast News (January 1, 2021).
  49. ^ Joshua Ceballos, Here Are the 13 Florida Republicans Who Objected to Biden’s Vote Certification, Miami New Times (January 7, 2021).
  50. ^ Blood, Michael R.; Riccardi, Nicholas (December 5, 2020). “Biden officially secures enough electors to become president”. AP News. Archived from the original on December 8, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  51. ^ Liptak, Adam (December 11, 2020). “Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 12, 2020.
  52. ^ “Order in Pending Case” (PDF). Supreme Court of the United States. December 11, 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on December 11, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  53. ^ Diaz, Daniella. “Brief from 126 Republicans supporting Texas lawsuit in Supreme Court”. CNN. Archived from the original on December 12, 2020. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  54. ^ Draper, Robert (April 22, 2021). “Liz Cheney vs. MAGA”. The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  55. ^ A.G. Gancarski, Father’s Day message: Florida Republicans defend family separations at Mexican border, (June 17, 2018).
  56. ^ Kent Justice, Lawson, Rutherford react to Trump signing executive order to end family separations, WJXT (June 21, 2018).
  57. ^ Lindsey Kilbride, Jacksonville Business Owner Could Get Path To Citizenship Under Rep. Rutherford Bill, WJCT (August 4, 2017).
  58. ^ a b Derek Gilliam, Sheriff Rutherford talks about his future, crime, abortion and a ‘culture of death’, Florida Times-Union (January 22, 2015).
  59. ^ Max Marbut, Sheriff John Rutherford supports use of medical marijuana but not Amendment 2, Jacksonville Daily Record (September 22, 2014).
  60. ^ Jon Blauvelt, Rep. Rutherford calls for procedural changes at Chamber luncheon to promote bipartisanship in Congress, Ponte Vedra Recorder (November 2, 2017).
  61. ^ Dana Treen, John Rutherford wins re-election as Jacksonville sheriff, Florida Times-Union (March 22, 2011).
  62. ^ “John Rutherford wins CD 4 primary – Florida Politics”.
  63. ^ “2016 Election Results: House Live Map by State, Real-Time Voting Updates”. Election Hub.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Florida’s 4th congressional district

U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by

United States representatives by seniority
Succeeded by