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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Jul. 8, 201412:00 PM EST

Gaffney to challenge Fullwood for House District 13 seat

by: Marilyn Young

When paperwork snafus led to state Rep. Reggie Fullwood failing to qualify last month to run for a third term, he saw it as a mix-up.

City Council member Johnny Gaffney saw it as an opportunity.

Gaffney filed paperwork to run for House District 13 seat in 2016. By doing so, he can raise money for a special election this year that is needed to fill the seat.

Fullwood said he was a “bit surprised” by Gaffney’s decision and questioned why the council member didn’t file in June during the original qualifying period.

Gaffney, 54, said he had thought about seeking a legislative seat over the years but had too much time left on council.

He went “back and forth” on whether to qualify in June, but didn’t. Because he’s term-limited in 2015 and the second opportunity came up, he said it was the right time.

“This is the next level,” he said. “It gives me another opportunity to build on what I’ve started here.”

He said the council and House districts are similar in geography and demographics, so the priorities remain the same for him: education, jobs and economic development.

Fullwood, 39, said he has focused on education, housing and economic development issues while in Tallahassee. He touted his work on increasing money for affordable housing.

He also said he was the first Florida lawmaker to introduce legislation to allow students who are U.S. citizens but whose parents are illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition.

Fullwood said he was the youngest person elected to City Council when he was 24. He said he left his second term a few months early to challenge Audrey Gibson, but lost.

When she ran for state Senate, Fullwood ran for the House seat again and won.

Gaffney said his ability to work with people will be critical in Tallahassee. “Everything is about relationships,” he said. “I have the skillset and enough diplomacy to collaborate with colleagues.”

But, he added, he’s also an “independent thinker who’s not afraid to tackle tough issues.”

Gaffney said he has always been supportive of Fullwood and considers him a friend.

Fullwood said the two have worked together some over the years, “but it’s not like we’re lifelong friends.”

Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland said the primary for the special election for House District 13 will likely be on the Nov. 4 ballot. A runoff, if necessary, would be in December.

Gaffney would have to submit a resignation letter 10 days before qualifying for the special election. The resignation must take effect no later than either when the council member resumes the new office (if he’s elected) or when the council member’s successor would take office.

Because the election for council is within six months of when the resignation would take effect, the seat would not need to be filled in a special election, Holland said. The first city election is March 24, with the second being May 19.

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