For House District 13 Democratic candidate Tracie Davis, her entire campaign comes down to one call to action.
That call to action? Darken the oval next to Reggie Fullwood’s name on the ballot.
Davis, who ran competitively against Fullwood only to lose by a few points in August, began her campaign anew in October, after Fullwood pleaded guilty to two counts in his federal fraud trial.
Fullwood resigned the seat and his campaign. Very quickly, it became clear Davis was the choice of Duval Democrats to replace him. That choice was ratified at an October meeting of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee, and — with just a month before the election — Davis was tasked with launching a general election campaign against a Republican candidate, Pastor Mark Griffin, known throughout the city.
When asked Thursday afternoon how the race is going, Davis deemed it an “exciting challenge.”
“It’s exciting in the sense that I’m back in the race,” but the challenge comes in “making sure people understand they won’t see my name on the ballot.”
That challenge is intensified by the “fast pace” of the campaign, Davis said.
As it is a new campaign.
Davis had to pay the qualifying fee all over again, and launch a “full-fledged campaign in three weeks,” building an infrastructure and holding events — such as a Thursday evening fundraiser — all at once.
Luckily, Davis said, she’s getting help – including from state representatives from across Florida who are “reaching out” and “helping with raising money.”
As well, Davis said, “support from the party has been great.”
And it’s been driven by practical concerns.
“Everyone is feeling urgency to retain the seat,” Davis said, “everything is here and now.”
Davis has also gotten support from less partisan sources, including the dog track troika of the Jacksonville Kennel Club, the Orange Park Kennel Club, and Bayard Raceway.
That may surprise some observers, but not Davis.
“I’ve always been able to get establishment support,” she said.
Going back to the 2015 supervisor of elections race she lost to Mike Hogan, Davis said she’s been “seen by both parties as someone they can trust.”
Davis owes that trust factor to a solid reputation she’s built over years.
Davis raised $4,500 in the first two days of the campaign; though she didn’t want to disclose how the last week went on the money front, she reports that she’s “still getting more donations and contributions,” and is “raising and spending as we go.”
And she expects the stretch run in her campaign to be active, with real money coming in and being spent, including a radio buy beginning Saturday in the Jacksonville market driving home the message to her voters to “darken that oval next to Reggie’s name.”
Radio is necessary, Davis said, for that voter education: “the goal is to reach the largest audience possible.”
“Duval has never seen anything like this. This is not a normal-type campaign. I’m literally running a campaign in three weeks,” Davis said.
That campaign is starting to heat up, and two candidate debates in the next week will tell a tale for the political junkies of Jacksonville’s Urban Core.
On Friday, Davis and Griffin debate at the First Coast Tiger Bay meeting at the University Club. And on Thursday evening, the candidates will debate at Edward Waters College’s Milne Auditorium.
When asked about strategy for these events, Davis said “for me, it’s always been being myself … no matter what.”
“People trust me because they know who’s talking to them,” Davis said. “Who’s in your face is what you get.”
Davis believes, as did Fullwood when he was an active candidate, the party label will prevail for many voters.
In House District 13, people vote Democratic almost reflexively.
And the next two and a half weeks will see Davis educating voters in her district to “darken the oval” next to Fullwood’s name, so that she can go to Tallahassee.