Court throws out Jacksonville City Council special election challenge

David Taylor

David Taylor, a former Jacksonville City Council Republican candidate who has not been immune to controversy over the years, saw his lawsuit against the Duval County Supervisor of Elections thrown out Tuesday by Judge Robert M. Foster.

Taylor’s charge: The special election in District 12 was not publicly announced in a publication of record. The only qualified candidate, Republican Randy White, won without opposition.

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel framed the decision to throw the case out as a victory for consolidated government.

“In summary, the plaintiff, David Taylor, sought to invalidate the special election because he claims he was not provided notice of the qualifying period established by the City Council.  In misapplying state statute, Mr. Taylor argued that the Supervisor of Elections was required to publish notice of the election in the newspaper because there is a requirement for such notice to occur in special elections called by the Governor and Florida Secretary of State,” Gabriel asserted Tuesday.

“The complete dismissal of Mr. Taylor’s complaint is significant because the Court reviewed the requirements necessary to set a local special election for Council vacancies and acknowledged all of our arguments that it is the City Charter and local Ordinance Code that dictate the requirements of the special local election, and such were followed,” Gabriel added.

Indeed, in a seven-page decision, the court repeatedly struck down Taylor’s petitions for relief, effectively saying that even if there were a legitimate petition for redress, it couldn’t be provided in a timely way.

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 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 last month: “The City Charter controls Municipal Elections — no requirement for Public Notice in the Charter. Was noticed by City Council and on our website.”

The charter does not require published notice, and SOE and the Council did notice the vacancy and the process.

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel, when the suit was filed, was “confident that the City’s special election set in the upcoming election complies with all applicable laws.

Taylor’s lawsuit asserted that state statute 100.141 prevails, however, requiring notice published twice within 10 days in a paper of record at least 10 days prior to qualifying. He contended that Hogan broke the law because no notice was published.

“No one that lived in District 12 knew there was going to be an election,” Taylor said in July, 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 record those attempts in emails, he said).

Taylor erroneously noted that the legislation was on no Council agenda. Indeed, it was passed on a one-cycle emergency, which would have necessarily been added to the agenda, but Taylor stopped short of advocating a remedy of ending emergency legislation altogether.

Taylor asserted in July 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.

In July, 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.”

In an irony of sorts, Judge Foster — retiring in a few months — is ensnared in an election challenge regarding his seat, which Gov. Scott seeks to fill by appointment, while a Jacksonville lawyer says it should be on the ballot.

The 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Scott in July and the case is headed to the Florida Supreme Court.

Taylor offered a statement that equated the court decision with “communism.”

“This isn’t right. We may have to bring city council in as a defendant and/or appeal but that’s to be decided. It’s not democratic or American for a SOE/Hogan to whisper to one man when qualifying is and intentionally withhold same said information from everyone else. We know that’s what SOE did because every other election/special election has been noticed in the paper consistent with state election law except this one,” Taylor asserted.

“This was the SOE trying to hand deliver his longtime political ally, Randy White, the job. It stinks, especially since Randy White’s wife works at the SOE’s office as the SOE’s assistant.  White has been SOE’s biggest supporter for over 10 different elections over several decades. SOE was trying to repay White but went too far,” Taylor added.

“Worse case scenario White will be city councilman for less than a year, because the next election is March 19. No one in District 12 will vote for White after learning his involvement in this conspiracy to defraud the voters of a choice, which is exactly what they did. Equivalent to communism,” Taylor concluded

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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