House District 11 isn’t one of Florida Democrats’ top targets for 2020, but they’ve managed to recruit a serious candidate to challenge incumbent Rep. Cord Byrd in the Nassau- and Duval-based district.
Jacksonville Democrat Joshua Hicks launched his bid for the seat on Monday, setting up a general election.
Hicks was first inspired to run for the set because he didn’t think Byrd should skate to a third term without a challenge.
A native Floridian, Hicks was born in Starke, a Bradford County town about halfway between Jacksonville and Gainesville. He was raised in Tallahassee and stayed local for college, earning his undergraduate degree from Florida State University. He now lives in Jacksonville’s Ibis Point neighborhood with his husband, Phillip.
He has some familiarity with the process, too. Hicks interned for Rep. Loranne Ausley during her first stint in the House and worked for the People for the American Way Foundation, the Service Employees International Union and the League of Conservation Voters. He currently works for the Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
As a senior in high school, he ran for Tallahassee City Commission. Though he finished in last place in the six-way race ultimately won by Andrew Gillum, it gave him some first-hand experience as a candidate for public office.
Hicks has also served on the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence’s Young Professionals Board and is a current member of the Florida LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus.
After getting to know the district, Hicks told Florida Politics it became clear Byrd’s politics don’t reflect his constituents.
For instance, the “sanctuary cities” ban Byrd championed was a “waste of time,” Hicks said, adding that Jax “is not and never has been a sanctuary city.”
Also of concern were Byrd’s 2020 votes in favor of the “parent consent” bill, which requires at least one parent to sign off before a minor can get an abortion. It was one of the more divisive bills to make it through the Legislature this year, with some Democrats breaking ranks to vote for it on religious grounds.
To Hicks, it was unnecessary. There was already a parental notification law on the books, and he said requiring consent does more harm than good.
“Most of our teenagers who aren’t going to their parents for this aren’t going to them for a reason,” he said, adding the HD 11 he knows has other priorities.
“I strongly believe Duval and Nassau counties can be inclusive in terms of our politics. We all love our beaches. We all love our teachers,” he said.
Hicks said his priorities include Medicaid expansion, a bigger need now than before given the current coronavirus crisis. He also said the district needs better jobs, specifically green jobs, and more funding for schools.
“If the state doesn’t fund our schools then we have to do it locally,” he said, adding that he supports the proposed half-cent sales tax for Duval schools.
Hicks said he was confident his campaign would raise enough money this month to pay the ballot fee ahead of the June 12 deadline to qualify for state legislative races.
Currently, he and Byrd are the only candidates in the race. Whether or not he faces a primary challenger, punching his ticket to Tallahassee will be an uphill battle.
Byrd went head-to-head against Democratic nominee Nathcelly Leroy Rohrbaugh last year, winning 70%-30%.
Through April, Byrd had raised $59,750 and had about $47,000 on hand.