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Duval Democrats ‘aggressively organizing’ as Lisa King prepares to lead them

After winning her election for chair of the Duval County Democrats earlier this weekLisa King issued a statement that read more like a call to arms.

“The stakes have never been higher for our country. The ideals that we hold so dear seem to be under attack every day. While we are currently the minority in the federal and state government, there are proportionally more registered Democrats than Republicans. It is our duty as an organized party to not only engage our voters,” King wrote, “but to also fight for their rights and well being every step of the way.”

“We will not sit back and watch the rights of our citizens be challenged at every turn. We can and will bring the fight for human rights, health care, equality, and justice to the front steps of our Republican Legislators. We will be a force to be reckoned with on the public stage where these battles are fought. We will exude strength and grace – fighting for our values and pushing back against any individual or group who decides to challenge them. We are Democrats and we are ready to fight for American values,” King added.

Duval Democrats performed well for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She got more votes in Jacksonville than Donald Trump. King was instrumental in that effort as the regional lead for the Clinton campaign.

Next year is bearing down on Duval Democrats, and they are fielding interesting candidates, such as Tracye Polson in House District 15 (where one-half of the political team for the likely Republican nominee, Wyman Duggan, is headed to City Hall to work as Lenny Curry‘s chief of staff).

Polson, of course, is aggressively campaigning — canvassing every weekend, and offering social media commentary on news stories. As of this moment, she is the best chance Northeast Florida Democrats have to flip a seat.

Still, there are holes in the field. Mayor Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams have no 2019 ballot competition. State Reps. Cord Byrd and Jason Fischer lack even nominal opposition in next year’s general election. Are Dems going to concede these opportunities?

Time will tell on that.

“I can tell you that we are aggressively organizing so as to turn out Dems and dem leaning NPAs in every precinct in this County.   I’ve talked to most of our statewide candidates and they all know how well we did for HRC in 2016 so I expect we’ll see all of them here. We have a lot of work to do but we’ve never been more unified and committed to doing it,” King asserted.

King understands better than many how partisanship works.

Despite raising more money and getting more endorsements than Al Ferraro in her 2015 race for Jacksonville City Council, King was unable to beat him.

King gave us a candid interview after that ballot-box setback.

Her polling had her up two weeks before the election; however, King noted that the “top down partisan messaging from either team,” which drove party identification voting as the Lenny Curry team wanted.

In her hyper-Republican Council district, King was washed out.

Curry, once in place, looked to revamp the city’s boards and commissions — and in his sights was the Planning Commission.

King, who was by then chair, and fellow Democrat Joey McKinnon were targeted for removal, and by a 13-5 City Council vote, they were yanked.

The vote was especially notable because many Democrats, such as Garrett DennisKatrina Brown and Reggie Gaffneywent against King.

King asserted then that “nothing teaches you who your friends are quicker than who is on your side when they have something to lose.” [Worth noting: since that 2015 vote, Dennis may have learned the same lesson at the hands of Council].

King was said to have been too partisan for the comfort of Curry and his inner circle.

Now, in what could be construed as an irony, she takes the helm of the local party in the same week that Mayor Curry’s chief political strategist, Brian Hughes, became chief of staff (effective Jan. 2).

For King, that hire is an example of “blurred lines” between politics and policy in the administration.

“Mayor Curry has stated that Hughes has played a significant role in key issues of his administration such as pension reform and the [Kids Hope Alliance]. He played that role while on the payroll of the Mayor’s PAC. Have open government norms been violated?”

“This is a disturbing question that taxpayers have a right to have clarified. I served on the Planning Commission as a volunteer from 2012-2015. Before even my first meeting,” King said, “Jason Gabriel of the General Counsel’s Office briefed me on the requirements of the Sunshine Law and continued to remind me and my colleagues of its requirements. Our leaders owe us real transparency.”

Will the Democratic Party finally serve as a bulwark against what King and other Dems see as the Curry administration’s blurring of policy and politics?

Time will tell.

But their new chair is aware of the ineluctable partisanship of the game being played.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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