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Flag burning ad spurs debate challenge in Jax House race

On Wednesday in Jacksonville’s Memorial Park, House District 15 Democratic candidate Tracye Polson challenged Republican Wyman Duggan to a debate.

Accompanied by members of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and military veterans, Polson described her background as both a daughter of a military member and a niece to five uncles who served.

Polson was spotlighting her bona fides in what is becoming an increasingly high-profile race for good reason: Republican Duggan slammed Polson in a hard-hitting attack ad.

Not with Us,” a 30-second spot from Duggan’s campaign that dropped last week, paints “political insider” Polson as too radical for the district.

As a series of vivid images ranging from Resistance marches to footage of a flag burning flash onto the screen, the voiceover depicts Polson as a devotee of “socialized health care, job-killing taxes, and big government education,” including but not limited to “putting unions ahead of students.”

The flag burning image clearly irked Polson, a social worker who works with veterans who have PTSD.

“I am prepared to defend these values as a person and a candidate against someone who would clearly say anything to get elected,” said Polson Tuesday, rolling out the debate challenge.

“The citizens of District 15 deserve to hear the truth about where we stand, and to decide for themselves who will better represent their needs in office instead of what is fabricated in a false and misleading television ad,” Polson added.

On behalf of the Duggan campaign, consultant Tim Baker noted that the Polson campaign has not directly contacted Duggan for a debate.

Baker then noted that Polson had decided the tone of the general election campaign, as she hit Duggan with an attack spot first.

The furor over the flag burning ad is driven in no small part because this race is polling as a dead heat.

An internal Polson poll from SEA Polling and Strategic Design showed Duggan up two points (41-39) in what Democrats see as a swing district. There are polls, we are told by Republican operatives not aligned with Duggan, that also have Polson up.

The resource battle is worth watching down the stretch, and as of Sept. 14 it was favorable to the Democrat: Duggan has under $23,000 on hand after a bitter primary battle, putting him well behind Polson’s $116,000-plus, in a district that has a slight Democratic plurality.

However, the Republican bet is that an image of a burning flag will trump the very real paper trail documenting Duggan’s lobbying endeavors.

Written By

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

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