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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Nov. 3, 202011:11 PM EST

Jody Phillips defeats Jimmy Midyette for Duval County Clerk of Courts

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Voters also approved a half-cent sales tax referendum Nov. 3 to fund a $1.9 billion plan to fix aging Duval County Public Schools facilities. 
by: Mike Mendenhall Associate Editor

Republican Jody Phillips will succeed term-limited GOP incumbent Ronnie Fussell as the next Duval County Clerk of Courts.

Phillips, chief operating officer of the clerks office, defeated Democratic challenger Jimmy Midyette, an attorney and civil rights activist, in the Nov. 3 general election. 

According to the Duval County Supervisor of Elections unofficial vote total, Phillips won 51.47% to 48.53% for Midyette.

Phillips won a three-way primary contest for the GOP nomination Aug. 18, receiving 57.7% of the vote over former City Council President Scott Wilson at 31.4%. Clerk’s office employee Leon Jackson finished third in that contest with 10.9%.

Midyette, formerly with Luna Law Firm, helped lead the 2012 push to expand Jacksonville’s human rights ordinance to include protections for the LGBTQ community.

Phillips is a former Middleburg postmaster and had a 25-year career in the highway construction business before joining the clerk’s office after Fussell was elected in 2013. Phillips has been COO for the past three years.

Kevin Carrico

The clerk’s race opened Wilson’s District 4 Council seat, where Republican Kevin Carrico defeated Democrat Nicole Hamm in a runoff election, 53.45% to 46.55%. 

According to the supervisor of elections, the GOP held the Council seat by 2,151 votes - 16,681 for Carrico to 14,530 for Hamm.

Midyette and Hamm could not capitalize on increased voter turnout and a Duval County win for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The former vice president won the county over Republican President Donald Trump 51.05% to 47.37%. Biden became the first Democrat to win the presidential vote in Duval County since Jimmy Carter in 1976. 

Schools half-cent sales tax

Duval County voters approved a half-cent sales tax referendum to raise $1.9 billion to fix Duval County Public Schools’ aging facilities and buildings.

The supervisor of elections showed 67.30% of voters supported the sales tax with 32.70% against.

The Duval County School Board released a plan last year to fix aging school buildings and address safety and security needs across the district.

The half-cent tax received support from Mayor Lenny Curry and Council, reversing nearly a yearlong campaign against the tax from predominantly local Republican and conservative lawmakers. 

Council voted 18-1 to place the referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot after withdrawing the legislation in August 2019. 

Council member Rory Diamond was the only holdout from the same fight months earlier when city lawmakers could not reach an agreement with the school board to include per-pupil funding for public charter schools, which kept it off the November 2019 ballot.

The Florida Legislature ended that debate, approving a bill requiring public charter schools to receive the per-pupil dollars.

JAX Chamber endorsed the half-cent sales tax in May.

Curry signed Ordinance 2020-0161-E on April 16 in a virtual news conference finalizing the referendum with Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Diana Greene in attendance.

The school board settled a lawsuit in February challenging the city’s ability to stop the tax question from reaching voters.

The settlement came after a judge ruled in January that the school board had the authority to hire private attorneys outside the city’s Office of General Counsel, Daily Record news partner News4Jax.com reported Feb. 24.

 JEA separation of powers

Voters approved a referendum allowing City Council to split JEA board appointment power with Jacksonville’s mayor.

Nearly 351,000 Duval County voters supported a separation of powers between the city’s legislative and executive branches in appointing the board of Jacksonville’s public utility. 

The supervisor of elections showed 77.38% of voters supported the city charter change compared to 22.62% against.

The referendum was one result from the attempt by former JEA board and fired executives to sell the public utility last year to a private company. 

Council member Garrett Dennis filed Ordinance 2020-0100 in February to ask voters to give the Council three appointments to the board and the mayor three. The Council’s fourth appointment will come through an open application process.

Council passed the bill 19-0 on April 14. 

Dennis said in a statement Nov. 3 that “the people spoke loud and clear” in the referendum. 

“The citizens overwhelmingly supported the JEA referendum to shift power away from the mayor and to the City Council,” Dennis said. “For years, citizens have been crying foul over Mayor Curry’s shady and secret attempts to sell our publicly owned utility.” 

 

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