Lisa King, Hazel Gillis to square off for chair of Duval Democrats - Florida Politics

Lisa King, Hazel Gillis to square off for chair of Duval Democrats

Earlier this month, state Sen. Audrey Gibson — the next Caucus leader for Senate Democrats — resigned as chair of the Duval County Democratic Party.

A new chair will be chosen Dec. 4, a week from today. Until then, Darren Mason is in the interim role.

“I plan to continue to recruit and mobilize our party as we prepare for the important local and state races in 2018 and 2019,” Mason asserted, adding that Duval Dems “will finish this year strong.”

Mason, at first, said he wasn’t looking to relinquish the chair next month.

“I do plan on running for DEC Chair,” Mason told us on November 17; however, he since has changed his mind, after “prayerful consideration.”

Running instead of Mason: Lisa King, the county party committeewoman who lost a race for state chair to freshly-resigned Stephen Bittel.

Hazel Gillis, vice president of the Duval Dems’ Black Caucus, also is in.

Local Democrats are taking a more aggressive posture heading into 2018 than in 2016 certainly, with candidates being fielded in House races — such as House District 15 — that weren’t even contested in recent cycles.

King spoke to that in a statement offered Sunday evening.

“The Democratic Party is built on ensuring equal opportunity for everyone. Being inclusive is at the heart of our constitution where all citizens are treated as equal. Even still, too many of our neighbors are still being left behind In Jacksonville because those who set policy are too committed to their own interests to forge solutions that work for every citizen,” King asserted.

“Democrats can win elections in Jacksonville. To do so,” King added, “we must be brave, build trust and be ready to work. This is my vision of leadership, to build on what has worked, to invite diverse voices to the table and to demonstrate that there is more that binds us than divides us.  We have already shown that we are not scared of hard work –  the 2016 election returns, with the closest election since 1976, are a testament to that.”

“Politicians have promised a vision of unity – One City, One Jacksonville. Rather than unify, they have bred division and distrust. There are more of us who suffer from this than benefit.  Our pledge as Democrats is to build bridges of opportunity so every resident of Jacksonville can experience real unity,” King added.

Gillis, in an email announcing her bid, noted that she will “work diligently to unify our party and work for inclusion.”

The expectation is that Jacksonville — which already has more registered Democrats than Republicans — won’t just register Blue Dog, but will vote Blue.

Some races are less competitive than others; a credible Democrat doesn’t seem chomping at the bit to take on Lenny Curry for Mayor in 2019.

The focus will be on more winnable races.

But in a time when local Republicans are fractured, discussing non-disclosure agreements after leaks of key documents, what’s clear is that Democrats have an advantage in party structure, and that both chair candidates understand the importance of party unity heading into state and federal elections in 2018, and local contests the following year.

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