By the time Tommy Hazouri ran for Jacksonville City Council in 2015, he’d accomplished many political goals, but made no secret of wanting to be Council President.
Nearly five years after he was elected, Hazouri, a Democrat, was chosen on Tuesday to lead the 19-person Council, a remarkable feat given the GOP supermajority.
Hazouri, a one-term Mayor and six-term state legislator among other honors, will be Council President starting in July after an anticlimactic 16-3 vote.
Hazouri’s victory illustrated the uniquely nonpartisan contours of Jacksonville city elections, coming after he forged a strong relationship with Mayor Lenny Curry, a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida.
Hazouri endorsed Curry for reelection last year, in a race where the Democrats did not run a candidate despite having a plurality of registered voters and despite the county backing Democrats like Andrew Gillum in 2018.
In turn, Curry resisted entreaties by Republicans (many of whom were no longer in his orbit) to back late-emerging challenger Danny Becton, an unpolished second-term Councilman from Jacksonville’s Southside who launched his bid and drew early support from two other Republicans, Rory Diamond and Al Ferraro.
Republican Councilman Matt Carlucci, a Jacksonville political lifer like Hazouri, vouchsafed for Hazouri ahead of the vote, saying their dynamic was like an “old married couple … we bicker sometimes … nearly always end up in the same place, but have a lot of fun getting there.”
Republicans like Carlucci backed Hazouri despite pressure from conservative activists.
Ahead of the Council vote, a former chair of the local party, Karyn Morton, condemned the Hazouri/Curry alliance in stark terms, describing the now-incoming President as a “consistently corrupt, liberal politician who stood consistently with the Mayor and Aaron Zahn in support of the JEA sale process, especially now during the ongoing council and federal investigations.”
Other activists vowed electoral consequences for Republicans who went rogue and backed Hazouri, but clearly those casting the votes weren’t worried about political fallout down the road.