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- 2014 - February - 17th -

Interesting patterns emerging in 2015 City Council races

By David Chapman, Staff Writer

The only certainty of the 2015 City Council elections is that there will be several new faces in the group.

How many will be determined over the next several months, leading to the first election in March.

While still more than a year out, all 19 seats have drawn candidates. As of this morning, 40 to be exact.

Three currently sitting in the seats already have drawn opposition. Three other incumbents haven’t filed for their seats — or anything at all. There are three familiar faces who have served eight years each and seek a return. And there’s another three trying to secure their first seat after coming up short in 2011.

Nineteen seats, 19 stories being drafted — but the first chapter has been written.

Facing early competition

The majority of council members who can run again have filed to do so. Only three have drawn opposition.

Kimberly Daniels is one of them.

The At-Large Group 1 representative has drawn a couple of opponents, but said Friday she welcomes the competition.

“Everybody is a part of it. I love the process … it’s part of the liberty we have,” she said.

Her race so far also is one of the higher-funded.

In the past several months, Daniels has picked up $51,000, mainly through a $50,000 self-loan. Her closest opponent is local businesswoman Anna Brosche, who raised $40,000 in January — her first month of reporting.

“Money doesn’t win a race,” Daniels said. “Dollars don’t count, votes count.”

She said she is concentrating on her role with council, specifically public health and safety issues, and hasn’t begun to raise money.

“If you worry about it, it will run away from you,” she said. “If you do your job, it will come to you.”

Her At-Large Group 5 colleague Robin Lumb also has drawn multiple challengers, but said his only surprise was how early people have entered his race.

“I think what would surprise me is if I didn’t draw opponents,” he said.

In District 14, incumbent Jim Love also has drawn early opposition. He expected the challenge, given the rarity of council races that are unopposed.

Only At-Large Group 3 representative Stephen Joost was unopposed in 2011.

Love, like Lumb, said he was “a little surprised” at how early candidates have filed but he expected competition. He said he expects one or two more people to eventually enter the race, but that he’s been here before.

“I have already done it the hard way, running against five others (in 2011),” he said.

Love said he’ll be better prepared this time, but the trade-off is that a re-election campaign effectively will be a third job — the others being his business and council.

Council members Matt Schellenberg, Doyle Carter, Bill Gulliford and Greg Anderson are other incumbents who have filed for re-election, but none are yet opposed.

In or out?

Three current council members eligible to again run aren’t opposed or unopposed — they haven’t filed to receive those distinctions.

One will be in soon, though.

“My intention is to file the first week of March,” said Lori Boyer, District 5 representative.

The timing isn’t to her liking, though.

“Frankly, I’d like to wait another six months,” she said.

Boyer said once she files she then becomes a candidate who will have to fundraise and have certain restrictions placed on her. She said she’d rather focus on her council work and put off campaigning, but has received pressure to file “sooner rather than later.”

District 5 has one candidate so far, but Boyer said she wouldn’t be surprised if others emerged from the San Marco area that “often has a lot of candidates.”

Council members Reggie Brown and John Crescimbeni also have not filed.

Both have been on council for more than one term but are eligible for another after winning elections in 2008 to replace others.

Neither returned phone calls seeking their intentions.

Hoping to return

The list of candidates across the races has many new names, but there are some familiar faces, as well. Three, in particular.

Terry Fields and Pat Lockett-Felder both have council experience after serving eight years apiece. Fields served District 7 from 1991-99 before being elected to the Florida House of Representatives.

When he left, Lockett-Felder was elected to the district and served from 1999-2007.

Now, the two are squaring off to succeed term-limited Denise Lee in District 8.

Fields said Friday he has spent most of his adult life in public service and “loves” the role. A return to council would mean he can push for economic development and Downtown revitalization, he said.

“I still believe there is so much to do,” he said. “I’d like to continue that work.”

Lockett-Felder did not return a call for comment.

The two are among five candidates running for the office.

Elsewhere, Glorious Johnson is seeking a return to council after four years away. She’s trying to replace term-limited Warren Jones in District 9.

Johnson previously served At-Large Group 5 from 2003-11. A call seeking comment was not returned.

If elected, Fields or Lockett-Felder along with Johnson would be serving their third term.

Others are again trying for their first after coming up short in 2011.

Trying another time

Danny Becton is a Southside guy looking to lead what will be a Southside-only district starting in 2015.

In 2011, when what will be District 11 contained the Beaches, Becton came up short against Gulliford.

This time, he said he thinks he’s more prepared.

“It never hurts to have done this before,” Becton said. “That was the first toe in the water for a process of which I was a novice. … I didn’t like it (the results) but always learned to take a negative and turn it into a positive, and that’s what I have done.”

After the defeat, Becton said he helped lead a group that pushed for changes when council went through a once-a-decade redistricting plan in 2011.

He also became more involved in organizations within the area and learned the leadership of the city, all with an eye toward 2015 and the possibility of becoming the first representative of the new district.

“I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t done this three years ago,” he said.

Lindsey Brock was another who came up short in 2011, falling to Clay Yarborough in District 1 in a runoff. He’s trying again for 2015, this time in a reshaped District 2 for an open seat.

“I still believe Jacksonville needs solution-based leadership. That’s why I ran last time,” Brock said.

District 2 now crosses the St. Johns River, but Brock said he doesn’t think the reconfiguration changes much in his goal — he has ties to the Northside and the Fort Caroline area, where he lives.

An attorney with a master’s degree in maritime law, Brock also said having Blount Island in the newly shaped district will be key for growth and development.

He said he learned during his 2011 run that “there are a lot of good people in Jacksonville that care about their city and neighborhood.” Now, he said he wants to tap into that passion for his current run.

Like Brock, Marc McCullough will not have to worry about an incumbent this time around.

He was the lone challenger against then-incumbent Johnny Gaffney in 2011, who won by a 72-28 percent margin. Gaffney is term-limited.

Though there is no sitting council member, McCullough will have challengers — District 7 has seven candidates, the most of any council race.

Filling blank chapters

The term “early” was a common refrain from many candidates about fundraising or even the races themselves.

Lumb said he knows of at least another 10 people who are “very serious” about making a run.

Boyer said seats across the county could have more candidates as interest groups, such as those pushing for a human rights ordinance or tax decreases, are recruiting candidates.

As the months unfold, more characters will enter, crowding some races. Other candidates will bow out.

The story of early 2014 won’t be the same as early 2015 — but many of those in now will be a part of the tale.

dchapman@baileypub.com

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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