A Republican with a history of success with voters filed Friday to run for a recently vacated Jacksonville City Council seat.
Matt Schellenberg, who served two terms representing portions of Jacksonville’s Southside, including Mandarin, on the Council between 2011 and 2019, is running for the At-Large Group 3 seat.
The district was declared vacant this week after former officeholder, Democrat Tommy Hazouri, died Saturday.
Schellenberg won election in his district in 2011 by a relatively narrow margin, but in 2015 won re-election by a more than two-to-one margin. However, his Council district was drawn for a Republican outcome.
Questions have been raised about whether Schellenberg can run. Municipal code says no one elected to two consecutive terms “shall be eligible for election as a council member in the next succeeding term.” Schellenberg sees no issue there, but others will raise challenges.
He has run since leaving the Council.
In his last campaign in 2020, Schellenberg fell short in a School Board race. He lost to incumbent Lori Hershey, finishing second in a three-way race with roughly 37% of the vote. The money wasn’t there.
Schellenberg, though a Republican, fell out of favor with Mayor Lenny Curry during his term. Expect his supporters to be a mix of social conservatives and other Republicans disenchanted with the Curry machine over the years.
Other Republicans are looking at the race, sources say. Nick Howland is expected to file soon. Soil and Water Commissioner John Barnes is looking at the race.
Democrats have an electoral plurality in Duval County, so it follows that there is likely one GOP ticket to the runoff given a strong Democrat, former legislative candidate Tracye Polson, having filed earlier this week.
Polson joins another Democrat, James “Coach” Jacobs, in that race. Jacobs has run before, and just like previous runs for the seat, he is likely undercapitalized for a countywide campaign. He has raised less than $800 so far.
Fundraising is not Polson’s problem. She was a very strong fundraiser and self-financing candidate in 2018. She has a supportive political committee, Better Jacksonville, registered on the local level as of Friday.
The timetable for launching bids for this seat, a vacancy unexpected until Hazouri went into hospice care early in September, has been accelerated. Local ordinance requires vacancies to be filled within six months, forcing events to move quickly.
On Tuesday, the City Council declared a vacancy for Hazouri’s former at-large seat, setting forth a process to set up the Special Election, with qualifying ending in just two weeks.
The First Election is Dec. 7. The General Election, featuring the top two finishers from December regardless of party, is Feb. 22.
Though candidates will be Southside/Mandarin residents, voters countywide are eligible to vote in both elections.