Runoff between Polson and Howland


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Tracye Polson and Nick Howland head to a run-off on February 22 after finishing neck-to-neck on Tuesday in the first ballot for a seat of the municipal council who had a low turnout but high stakes for who will succeed the late Tommy Hazouri on the board.

Neither Howland nor Polson were able to cross the 50% threshold necessary for victory, as two other candidates secured enough votes to continue the campaign for another two months.

The special election came after a longtime Jacksonville politician Hazouri died in September with almost two years remaining in tenure as a general group 3 board member.

The general seat meant candidates had to train voters across the county, a daunting task when it was the only race on the ballot during the holiday season. None of the candidates had previously held elected office, which added to the challenge of connecting with voters.

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In the Jacksonville Jungle Primary System, candidates appear together on the ballot, regardless of party affiliation.

For the special election, Polson and James “Coach” Jacobs ran as Democrats while Howland and Howland “Howdy” Russell campaigned as Republicans.

With 96% of the ballots counted, Polson and Howland clearly emerged as the top two voters.

Polson had won almost 36.7% and Howland was at 35.9%. Jacobs and Russell were grouped together with Jacobs at 13.69% and Russell at 13.66%.

Duval County Democratic Party Chairman Daniel Henry invoked Hazouri, a former mayor who twice won city council elections as a Democrat, to express confidence that Polson will win the second round.

“Tracye is a strong advocate for the community and is committed to building on the legacy of the late Tommy Hazouri,” said Henry. “While he is no longer with us, we will honor his legacy by electing a Democratic successor who will fight for the positive change he has long sought.”

Republican Party leaders linked Polson to another well-known Democrat by linking her to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Clearly Duval County is not ready for a Democrat and a radical ‘awakened’ hypocrite who backs JSO funding for the common people as she sits in her gated community mansion,” Dean said. Black, chairman of the Duval County Republican Party.

“The Republican Party is united and ready for the real contest,” he said. “On February 22, we will elect Republican Nick Howland and make sure Tracye ‘Pelosi’ never darkens the town hall gate.”

Howland, 48, said during the campaign that Jacksonville was “at a turning point in its history” and could incorporate long-term strategic thinking into the city’s future growth.

Howland is a Navy veteran who serves as CEO of the Fire Watch Project, a nonprofit that started out in Northeast Florida with a mission to prevent veteran suicides.

He said the Jacksonville sheriff’s office needed to be expanded by 300 more officers to “keep our streets safe.”

He said the city needed more manufacturing and transportation logistics operations that create “middle-class jobs” in addition to the fintech companies that have thrived in Jacksonville.

He said he was supporting the development of infill projects in downtown and neighborhoods “strategically”.

Stephanie Lengemann with her husband Peter Borenstein and son Theo leave polling station 704 on West Sixth Street in the Springfield community of Jacksonville on Tuesday after voting in the special election to fill the city council seat vacated by the death of Tommy Hazouri.

Polson, 62, said Jacksonville needed ethical and respectful leaders who would ask tough questions and regain the trust of residents.

She said the city needs to pay more attention to small business owners and should make it easier to compete for city contracts.

She said environmental justice and preparedness for the impact of climate change are also vital for a city full of rivers and located by the ocean. It supports the gradual elimination of septic tanks to improve the water quality of the Saint John River.

She said federal money coming to Jacksonville to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and money from a local gasoline tax must help long-neglected neighborhoods and she would focus her attention on ensuring that this occur.

Jacobs was running for the third time in three years for elected office. He challenged Hazouri in 2019 for the seat of the general council, then ran for Duval County School Board in 2020.

Russell, a restaurateur, was applying for the first time.

Polson previously ran for a seat in the State House in 2018 and Howland tried the same year to win election to the Duval County School Board.

Duval County Election Supervisor Mike Hogan said on Monday the turnout would likely be in the 11.7% range, with the lion’s share of voters being those who reliably go to the polls in every election.

As the polls closed at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the turnout stood at 12.55% of the county’s 645,247 voters. Democrats had the advantage after early voting ended on Sunday but Republicans made up the difference of about 6,000 votes on Tuesday.

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