The first major endorsement of the current Jacksonville City Council Special Election campaign rolled out Tuesday, and it broke Republican Nick Howland‘s way.
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford endorsed Howland in the At Large 3 race to replace recently deceased Tommy Hazouri, praising the Fire Watch Executive Director in the strongest possible terms.
“Nick Howland is a patriot and a strong community leader. From his service in the Navy to his extensive business experience to his devotion to serving and bettering our community, Nick has the right values and experience to serve our city with honor on the City Council. I’m proud to endorse his campaign and urge my fellow conservatives to support him as well,” Rutherford asserted.
Howland is “honored to have Congressman Rutherford’s support.”
“He has dedicated his life to serving our community and making Jacksonville a better place for all,” Howland noted.
Rutherford has represented the Jacksonville area in Congress since 2017. He served three terms prior to that as the elected Sheriff of Jacksonville, and his endorsement proved pivotal in the 2015 mayoral race, when Republican Lenny Curry defeated incumbent Democrat Alvin Brown.
In this instance, the Rutherford endorsement will prove to be an early warning shot by the political establishment across the bow of the other filed Republican in the race, former two-term Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg. Schellenberg will run as a critic of the current administration, and if Rutherford’s backing is any indication, establishment endorsements will go against him on the right.
The Rutherford endorsement rollout also serves as an unofficial response to a claim by a Democratic candidate that the At-Large Group 3 seat is a “Democratic seat” because it was held by Hazouri before he passed away earlier this month.
“Let’s be clear — this is a democratic seat in a city that recent census shows has a 40,000 democratic voter advantage. This race is more than just the opportunity to bring transparent, thoughtful leadership to City Hall — it’s our chance to prove Duval County is moving forward,” said Democrat Tracye Polson.
Hazouri told supporters Polson was his choice to succeed him. She spent a lot of personal money and time in a close-but-no-cigar run for the state House in 2018, and likely will invest heavily in herself again here.
A second Democrat, James “Coach” Jacobs, also is in the field. Jacobs has run before, but he has raised less than $800 for his current run, which was technically launched months ago in anticipation of the 2023 General Election.
All candidates must live in At-Large Group 3, but both the First Election (Dec. 7) and the General Election (Feb. 22) allow candidates to vote for whoever they want regardless of party identification. The First Election serves as an open Primary, unless one candidate gets an absolute majority of the votes, which is unlikely in a four-person field.