Court challenge mounted to Jacksonville City Council special election – Florida Politics

Court challenge mounted to Jacksonville City Council special election

David Taylor, a former Jacksonville City Council Republican candidate who has not been immune to controversy over the years, is taking legal action against the Duval County Supervisor of Elections.

Taylor’s charge: The special election in District 12 was not publicly noticed in a publication of record, one that saw the only qualified candidate, Republican Randy White, win without opposition.

White had filed as the only candidate for the 2019 race before incumbent Doyle Carter filed a resignation letter and had a head start with $86,000 (and political consultant Tim Baker) on his side. Qualifying for the 2019 race is Jan. 7 through 11, and Taylor hasn’t opened a campaign account for it.

The Florida Constitution offers scant guidance in Section 100.501 regarding local special elections: “County commissioners or the governing authority of a municipality shall not call any special election until notice is given to the supervisor of elections and his or her consent obtained as to a date when the registration books can be available.”

That seems to have happened in this case, with the Jacksonville City Council approving legislation to authorize the special election on the 2019 ballot.

This was Election Supervisor Mike Hogan‘s take, emailed to us Thursday morning: “The City Charter controls Municipal Elections – no requirement for Public Notice in the Charter. Was noticed by City Council and on our website.”

Indeed, Charter does not require published notice, and SOE and the Council did notice the vacancy and the process.

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel was likewise nonplussed: “We are confident that the City’s special election set in the upcoming election complies with all applicable laws. If or when the City is properly served with a complaint we will review and respond to any allegations that are raised.”

Taylor’s lawsuit asserts that state statute 100.141 prevails, however, requiring notice published twice within ten days in a paper of record at least ten days prior to qualifying. He contends that Hogan broke the law because no notice was published, and wants the election re-opened — and may want to run in it.

“No one that lived in District 12 knew there was going to be an election,” Taylor said, even as two candidates filed (though one, Sharol Noblejas, did not qualify). “If you’re in some inner circle … that’s great. But the law is the law, and it requires posting in a newspaper of general circulation.”

Taylor later added that those candidates had insider knowledge, and that when he called the SOE for guidance on qualifying, he was told to call back. (He did not memorialize those attempts in emails, he said).

Taylor noted that the legislation was on no Council agenda. Indeed, it was passed on a one-cycle emergency, but Taylor stopped short of advocating a remedy of ending emergency legislation altogether.

Taylor asserts that city ordinance on special elections requires that, if language is “void or vague,” then state statute that he cited shall prevail; his attorney, former Duval Democratic Party chair Neil Henrichsen, later told us the arguments were supported by Jacksonville Ordinance Code Sec. 350.103(b)(3) and Fla. Stat. Sec.100.3605

“It’s going to be a vicious circle for the Supervisor of Elections. They’re either bound by state election law, or bound by state code,” Taylor vowed.

Taylor did not indicate interest in the 2019 election, saying that the special election should have been “properly noticed” and that officials should “comply with the law.”

 

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