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Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Councilman Tommy Hazouri.

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Jacksonville election over, except for five City Council races

Expect Mayor Curry to “engage” in some of these contests.

With races for Mayor and Sheriff proving to be duds, Jacksonville’s 2019 campaign season won’t be one for the books.

The vast majority of contests were decided Tuesday evening. But five Council races require resolution on the May ballot.

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At Large Group 1: This is one of the contests where Mayor Lenny Curry will “engage.”

Former Duval Democratic Party chair Lisa King garnered 43 percent of the vote against four opponents. But the odds are good that the other 57 percent of the vote will prove challenging to get.

Most of it was split among three Republicans: unknown Gary Barrett, perennial candidate and ballot punchline Jack Daniels, and current District 10 Councilman Terrance Freeman.

Freeman was polling at just 5 percent weeks back but got over 22 percent once Tim Baker retooled his presentation, and dropped $80,000 into a television buy.

Freeman can be marketed as aggressively as Baker and the team wants. As well, there is oppo to use against King that will be especially potent.

Just a year ago, King’s husband, John Parker garnered national publicity for having used the phrase “colored people” during a dinner conversation with other party members and officials.

Parker was a committeeman at the time, and he resisted resigning, only relenting when severe heavyweights in the party (Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum, and Sen. Audrey Gibson — the Senate Minority-Leader Designate at the time) called for his exit.

King is the ideal opponent for Freeman. She won’t have an answer for the mailers, for the ads on hip-hop and gospel radio.

Freeman was appointed to Council by then Gov. Rick Scott less than a year ago. But Dems won’t have the budget to exploit that.

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At Large Group 3: Democrat Tommy Hazouri was the leading vote-getter against a tomato can Democrat and an unknown Republican, Greg Rachal. But Hazouri was held below 50 percent.

Rachal’s 38 percent was a function of party identification more than anything else. Hazouri plays ball with Mayor Curry and wants the Council Presidency during what will be his last term of public office.

Expect to see Hazouri win this one comfortably in May.

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District 8: Two Democrats face off here, appointed incumbent Ju’Coby Pittman and Tameka Gaines Holly.

Scott chose Pittman in the wake of the suspension of elected Katrina Brown, who faces a federal fraud trial.

In her months on the Council, Pittman hasn’t left a particular impact. Hasn’t said anything particularly quotable. But she has played ball.

Gaines Holly would also.

The result of this one: No impediments for Jacksonville On The Rise.

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District 10: Two Democrats here also. This will be an open seat, as appointed Terrance Freeman (subbed in for federal indictee Reggie Brown) is running at large.

Brenda Priestly-Jackson ran strongest on Tuesday, garnering 42 percent in a five-person field.

Celestine Mills, who has gotten endorsements from Downtown, was runner up.

This is Priestly-Jackson’s race to lose, likely to the detriment of the Mayor’s Office.

A former School Board chair, she has run and won in her district. Her roots are deep. Her political operation is on point.

She has a legitimate grievance, as well: Her court challenge to Freeman’s appointment was drummed out of court. Priestly-Jackson argued Freeman didn’t live in District 10 at the time of the appointment, but city and state lawyers made the case that the appointment wasn’t official until Freeman was sworn in (days after he moved into the district).

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District 14: Republican Randy DeFoor will face Democrat Sunny Gettinger in a runoff that will see two qualified and thoughtful candidates square off for one seat.

DeFoor drew 39 percent of the vote; Gettinger 28 percent.

DeFoor will see Curry “engage” on her behalf. She is a Tim Baker client.

Gettinger, meanwhile, will be put in the position of responding to whatever hit pieces and oppo are dropped.

In many ways, this could feel like a reprise of the 2016 HD 15 race between Democrat Tracye Polson and Republican Rep. Wyman Duggan.

Polson had the resources she needed but was unable to counter Duggan attack ads linking her to drum circles and progressive protest street theater.

Expect them to hit Gettinger, and keep hitting, with Republican and swing voters.

If the Mayoral race was any guide, expect targeted mail to Democrats, contending that Gettinger may side with Lenny Curry on issues. One effective attack against Anna Brosche was that she voted the way Curry wanted almost every time.

People will complain about this strategy, but they would be better served effectively countering it.

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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