Democrat rises to challenge Kiyan Michael in HD 16
Image via Rachel Grage

Rachel Grage
Despite long odds and powerful backers for her opponent, Democrat Rachel Grage is challenging the incumbent.

House District 16 encompasses the Jacksonville Beaches and eastern parts of the city of Jacksonville and, at first glance, represents a very tough Democratic pickup opportunity. Yet despite long odds and powerful backers for her opponent, Democrat Rachel Grage is challenging the Republican incumbent.

The eastern Duval County district has more than 56,000 Republicans and fewer than 34,000 Democrats. With more than 30,000 registrants being no-party voters, it’s clear that Beaches Democrats are small in number compared to the overall district.

What’s also clear is that incumbent GOP Rep. Kiyan Michael is uniquely connected to leadership in Tallahassee.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ endorsement propelled her to an unlikely win in 2022’s Republican Primary, but she has figured out the House very quickly. She calls future Speaker Sam Garrison a “mentor” and has carried several out-of-district appropriations requests for current Speaker Paul Renner.

Grage, a New York state native, moved to Florida in 2019 after a lot of community involvement up north. Once in the Sunshine State, she got involved in local Democratic organizations, serving as a legislative liaison and learning how Tallahassee worked.

No Democrat ran for this seat in 2022, which Grage says created “an uncontested race — a situation she finds unacceptable and frankly, un-American,” and one that she saw in a number of races.

“The last couple election cycles I opened my ballot and there several seats uncontested,” she said, adding that to “ensure a robust democracy, I think we need to have a choice on Election Day for every office.”

To that end, Grage is going to make her case to be that choice with local stakeholders.

“The challenge is going to be getting in front of as many people as possible between now and November. But, you know, it’s kind of my full-time job now, just reaching out to as many clubs and past Mayors and present mayors and community associations as possible,” Grage said.

“I just plan to take advantage of every connection that I can make,” she added. “I’ve been reaching out to a lot of people that are in office now, and people who have held office before and just really utilizing the network that’s out there, and it’s a pretty strong network.”

She’s had a lot of local grassroots support but has also had dialogue with Democratic elected officials and high-profile candidates, including incoming Senate Democratic Leader Jason Pizzo, Sen. Linda Stewart, Rep. Angie Nixon, newly elected Rep. Tom Keen, state Senate candidate Carlos G. Smith and Jacksonville City Council member Jimmy Peluso. Additionally, Duval Democratic Party Chair Daniel Henry and State Committee person Linae Parkinson have engaged with her.

She is also involved in fundraising, list building and other activities, including beefing up a social media presence for her campaign.

Regarding her opponent, Grage says that Michael has not been a presence at the Beaches.

“Mostly people don’t really know who she is,” Grage said. “I haven’t seen her do much for the beaches, honestly.”

Grage noted that generally, “legislators need to stop wasting time and money on the culture wars and focus on the issues that really matter to Floridians.”

“And I see that as the property insurance crisis, environmental issues like responsible development, clean water, flood management, reproductive rights and affordable health care for everyone, and the free flow of information in our schools and universities.”

Michael, she noted, hasn’t done much to advance those priorities.

Grage hasn’t talked to the most prominent resident of the district, Mayor Donna Deegan, though key staffers and former candidates Tracye Polson and Joshua Hicks have engaged with her and been helpful.

“When I’m ready, I think I’m going to ask them to help me get a sit down with Donna Deegan,” Grage said. “I want to pose the question to her as the Mayor and also the Beaches Mayors and say, ‘You know, what can I do to help you when I get to Tallahassee?’”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


8 comments

  • PeterH

    March 15, 2024 at 9:09 am

    Democrats are poison. Keep Florida Red and vote the remaining Dems out of office.

    • MH/Duuuval

      March 15, 2024 at 9:49 am

      Drop dead, poser!

      Kiyan Michael is a zombie who follows the commands of Dee and his minions — she is incapable of independent thought or action.

      • nail

        March 15, 2024 at 12:38 pm

        …Fl may be the Nursing Home of the Country but MAGAts has only demonstrated that they are as impotent as they are incompetent.

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  • Dont Say FLA

    March 16, 2024 at 12:02 pm

    Not sure the odds are as long for Florida’s Democrats as people think they are.

    The effects of the GOP running this GOP run state has hit home with those who have (or HAD) homes.

    Everyone’s been so negatively impacted by the GOP’s running of this state, they might decide it’s not worth another GOP vote just to keep the silly anti-woke laws being enacted and announced and then overturned.

    People are realizing a US political party with a platform based on claims of others is the US being bad and being the enemy, that platform is fabricated on fear and has zero substance. Therefore, the politicians with that platform are politician for some reason other than their stated platform, and since they’re lying about why they’re politicians, it’s reasonable to assume their true intentions and actions are mucho malo. And there’s plenty of evidence that assumption has been true for, at least, the last 5 years.

    • MH/Duuuval

      March 16, 2024 at 9:26 pm

      The only actual play in the MAGA playbook — outside of violating the 10 commandments — is divide and conquer.

      • MH/Duuuval

        March 18, 2024 at 10:22 am

        Meanwhile Kayan and Bernie Jacques — Dee’s tokens of the moment — were at the signing with Dee and Grady Judd of latest anti-immigrant legislation.

  • Hand Sitters

    March 20, 2024 at 8:33 am

    The GOP’s baby in chief will turn many former baby sitters into hand sitters who stay home and sit on their hands on election day rather than vote for the ego-maniacal diaper baby to get another four years to retry all his same campaign promises from 2015 which are the same (hysterically, ironically subbing in “absolutely immune” Biden for Hillary in Trump’s “Lock H__Up” Promise Department)

    Given “56,000 Republicans, fewer than 34,000 Democrats, and 30,000 independents,” if just one third of registered Republicans sit on their hands rather than voting MAGA, that makes for about 37,500 MAGA voters, 18,500 Republican sitting on their hands, 34,000 Democrats and 30,000 independents in eastern Duval County.

    If two thirds of Independents swing anti-MAGA but do go and vote, MAGA candidate and any unfortunate non-MAGA GOP souls remaining, they lose. Even here in eastern Duval County of all places.

    The maths are strong for the Pro-America, anti-MAGA voters who are, by far, most Americans.

Comments are closed.


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