Democrat Tracye Polson and Republican Nick Howland advanced to the February General Election to fill the unexpired Jacksonville City Council term of the late Tommy Hazouri.
With votes in all precincts counted, Polson took first place with 28,692 votes, followed by Howland with 28,366.
Polson had 36.5% of the vote, while Howland had 36.08%.
Republican Howland “Howdy“ Russell had 10,837 votes. His 13.79% of the vote was good for third place. James “Coach” Jacobs had 10,715 votes, in fourth place with 13.63% of the vote.
Since no candidate received 50% in the First Election, Polson and Howland will move on to the next round. However, Howland appears to be stronger with his base than Polson is with hers.
Howland won 106 precincts, while Polson won 82. But whereas Russell won no precincts, Jacobs took 11 precincts in Districts 7, 8, 9, and 10, a warning sign for Polson’s citywide appeal.
As expected, Democrats dominated Early Voting, carrying a 6,000 vote edge into Election Day. Republicans closed the gap by nightfall and eventually evertook Democrats.
Turnout was near 13%, stronger than most local political observers expected.
Both Polson and Howland have run for office before and lost. Polson fell short in a bid for the state House, while Howland lost a race for School Board. For the winner, this campaign sets up a future in an elected office. The loser will have fallen short in two consecutive races.
Tensions are already heating up.
Polson supporters cry foul over the political committees backing Howland, noting the difficulty in tracking contributions and their original sources.
Howland has countered that Polson spent her own money on the campaign.
Polson raised $179,140 in November, with $125,000 of that money coming from personal loans, money added to $51,000 of self-financing in the previous filing period.
She raised roughly a third of a million dollars between hard cash and her political committee for the First Election and spent more than $300,000 of it.
That burn rate did not go unnoticed.
“Despite spending over $300,000 — including over $200,000 of her own money — Far Left Millionaire Tracye ‘Pelosi’ failed to buy a seat for City Council and turned in a disappointing showing Tuesday evening. Along with her failed attempt to run for office in 2018, she has now burned over a million dollars to buy support from Jacksonville voters — who have once again rejected her,” said Duval County GOP chairman Dean Black.
“It’s clear that Duval County isn’t ready for a radical ‘woke’ Democrat and hypocrite who supports defunding JSO for regular people while she sits in her gated community mansion. The Republican Party is united and ready for the real contest,” Black charged.
Those close to the Howland effort said this was a “disaster” for Polson, who sent out “hit mail” while she “didn’t have a glove laid on her.”
“Now she’s going to be taken on directly and her record exposed like it was in the House race,” said one Howland supporters. Expect first responders to make the anti-Polson case.
Polson did receive plaudits for advancing.
Congratulations on your win tonight @polsonforjax! The City of Jacksonville is on track to having a fighter and trusted leader in office.
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) December 8, 2021
“We are proud of how she’s campaigned, and we’re hopeful voters will send Tracye to the City Council in February. Florida needs more women in local office, and Tracye will bring bold and thoughtful leadership to Jacksonville,” said Lucy Sedgwick, President & CEO of Ruth’s List Florida.
But Polson did not get an endorsement from Jacobs, who posted to Facebook a “congratulations” to various Democratic elected officials who endorsed Polson, such as Sen. Audrey Gibson, Reps. Tracie Davis and Angie Nixon, and City Councilman Garrett Dennis.
“I would have rather (gone) against Polson on her own merit rather than her receiving elected officials help to defeat a local coach,” Jacobs asserted.
Howland was a strong second in fundraising, with $149,231 raised between his campaign and his Florida Freedom PAC political committee through Dec. 2. Major Jacksonville names donated to Howland in November, including Ed Burr, Preston Haskell, and Michael Munz. One can expect Republican donor groups will rally to Howland ahead of the Feb. 22 runoff in the General Election.
This election won’t appreciably change the dynamics on the Jacksonville City Council, which has a Republican supermajority of 13-5 despite Democrats holding a registration advantage overall in Duval County.
Look for Mayor Lenny Curry, who has an interest in having a working partner in that seat, to campaign for Howland.
Well done @NickHowland15 running a visionary city council campaign in the 1st election. Congrats on making the run-off. Look forward to helping you close with a win in a few months. Vision matters!
— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) December 8, 2021
Whoever wins the General Election will likely have to start running for re-election immediately. The Special Election only fills the remainder of the term through June 2023.