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The many moods of Colin McArthur. Photos via campaign website.

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Arch-conservative Clay Yarborough primaried by pro-pot Republican

Challenger joined GOP in recent months.

State Rep. Clay Yarborough, a Jacksonville Republican, has never lost an election.

From the time he was the youngest person elected to the Jacksonville City Council to his current service in House District 12, the soft-spoken Yarborough has won elections with grassroots support.

Among the most socially conservative members of the Council through his year in the presidency of the body, he has faced a number of challenges. One of them is this year. 2020 brings a primary, from a libertarian Republican new to politics and the GOP itself.

Colin McArthur, who entered the race last month at qualifying, comes in against a candidate with over $60,000 cash on hand and the support of Tallahassee Republicans. His positions are more heterodox than the incumbent.

McArthur is a self-described libertarian, an advocate for gay marriage and cannabis legalization, positions Yarborough does not share.

He was an independent until months ago, when he picked a side, saying Republicans are “the party of a more moderate point of view.”

Despite having registered Republican and “running as a conservative,” he seeks “bipartisan solutions” to the state’s intractable issues.

When asked about fundraising, McArthur was vague.

“That is a great question,” the candidate said. “I’m not sure if I want to disclose that.”

Regarding the campaign itself, McArthur couldn’t say how many voter contacts his nascent campaign, self-described as “grassroots,” had as of our conversation earlier this week.

Nonetheless, he will rely on “good old-fashioned retail politics” and “shoe leather.”

However, Yarborough will be able to rely on whatever support he might need for legislative Republicans and interest groups, as the ones that might have preferred another candidate when he first ran in 2016.

McArthur, for his part, may relish the opportunity for conflict, saying one of his goals for running is to stand against “career politicians.”

“I’m against making one’s entire life their political career,” McArthur said.

Can Colin McArthur score an upset and give the incumbent some unexpected family time? That remains to be seen, and the upcoming weeks will tell the tale.

The winner of the Yarborough/McArthur dust up will face a Democrat, either Emmanuel Blimie or Speed Chialtas. Both are political newcomers, and the Southside/Arlington district performs Republican historically.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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