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Spaghetti, then red meat, at GOP HD 15 forum

Lawyer/lobbyist Wyman Duggan, yacht broker Mark Zeigler, and Joseph Hogan (son of elections supervisor Mike Hogan), the three Republicans looking to succeed Rep. Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s House District 15, squared off in a forum Monday night.

Consultants described this forum, held at a church deep in the Westside (“the most conservative church in Jacksonville,” per moderator Raymond Johnson) on Old Middleburg Road, as “the tip of the right wing spear.”

The intro urged voters that “if the candidates don’t have your Christian values, you know what to do.” 

You get the idea: After the spaghetti dinner, red meat was the dessert.

The candidate speeches soon began, with Duggan explaining his legal field (lobbying for private property owners), and extolling the performance of GOP governance over the last two decades. Duggan tempered the optimism by noting that Duval schools are worse than those in the bedroom communities, and that HD 15 has the highest sheriff’s office call rate in the city.

Duggan rattled off a list of endorsements, including Clerk of Courts Ronnie Fussell … and excising the very Republican Mayor Lenny Curry (a measure of the religious right thinking Curry sold them out by not vetoing an expansion of LGBT rights).

(Interestingly, that was the second diss of the Republican Mayor that evening. Earlier, Mayoral candidate Jimmy Hill got applause for saying he was running against Curry to “correct the mistake” of backing him three years prior.)

Duggan faced questions, including about Fussell voting for the inclusion of Parvez Ahmed to Jacksonville’s Human Rights Commission.

Using that as a bridge, the questioner asked if the United Nations should decide human rights for Jacksonville, Duggan asserted that “the United Nations have no place in Duval County.”

The United Nations issue did not die. A questioner taught the panelists that the United Nations is “controlling our national parks.” Duggan, still in his q&a, and the questioners stared forward impassively.

Hogan was next up. His stump speech had the virtue of brevity, leading to questions about the 2nd Amendment (he supports it, including for people under 21). He also supports school vouchers, a “good thing for Duval County.”

When asked about “national monuments being torn down,” Hogan misinterpreted the question, which was intended as one about Confederate monuments. Once he figured it out, he said “you can’t whitewash history.”

Hogan’s endorsement of Democrat Alvin Brown over Lenny Curry did not come up.

Zeigler was next up.

“I’m the only candidate in the race who lives in the district, owns a business in the district, and eats lunch in the district,” a dig at Duggan, who does his business downtown.

Zeigler also noted the transience of State Reps., noting Davis “took a six-figure job at the Chamber,” and Fant “decided to run for Attorney General.” He also swiped at Rep. Reggie Fullwood for seeing his career truncated by a wire fraud plea deal.

Zeigler punted on a question about Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida, saying he didn’t know enough about it to answer. He was, however, able to take a position against the legalization of a pill facilitating assisted suicide.

“I do not care for that,” meanwhile, was his response to a question about sanctuary cities.

From there, more questions for the candidates en masse.

On the question of the Competitive Workforce Act — a “radical LGBT rights bill” per Johnson — the candidates struggled.

“I’m not in favor of creating alternative causes of action that are duplicative or redundant,” Duggan said.

When asked if he’d vote against the bill, Duggan said he “doesn’t know anything about the bill” and wouldn’t vow to vote against a bill he knew nothing about.

Hogan vowed to vote against it “if it’s anything like the HRO bill.” And Zeigler said he wouldn’t vote for it.

“We haven’t seen the bill,” Zeigler said, but assured the crowd all three would vote against it.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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