Several incumbent City Council members are facing challengers to hold on to their seats, but maybe no one is being tested like Kimberly Daniels.
It’s a fight pitting her against one opponent who has brought in more money and high-profile endorsements than any other council candidate. Another opponent she narrowly defeated four years ago. And a political newcomer with 25 years of experience in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
The citywide representative will have to take on major issues the city is facing, such as pension reform, crime prevention and balancing city services with limited revenue.
There already will be a new majority on the council, a crop of fresh faces thrust into making decisions for the city’s future.
Daniels’ opponents are hoping that majority reaches an extra notch.
Daniels, a Democrat, was sworn in four years ago as a political newcomer herself, winning a two-person race with 50.3 percent of the vote.
Her background includes being an ex-prostitute, a military veteran, founder of Spoken Word Ministries and other theological outlets, and author of the “Demon Dictionary.” More recently, she was involved in an altercation with a District 7 candidate that led to a police report being filed.
In her council role, she’s led the Public Health and Safety Committee and served on several others, including Finance this year.
The early part of her term had one spotlight piece — a bill that provided the new county courthouse with $750,000 for new furniture. The public dispute pitted Mayor Alvin Brown against the judiciary, with the mayor preferring to transfer pieces from the former courthouse to save taxpayers’ money.
Daniels’ bill overwhelmingly passed, even after Brown vetoed it.
In late 2013, she sought to allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans Kirby-Smith Camp 1209 to lease the former National Guard Armory and turn it into a military museum. Another group emerged, wanting to turn the Downtown venue into an arts and education hub.
Daniels fought for the Sons to have the facility, but council members cited a flawed process and lack of a financial plan for the dilapidated building. She withdrew the bill and the venue remains empty, although the arts group is still pursuing it.
Daniels in July 2013 supported the pension reform plan Brown presented that ultimately was rejected. In December, she was one of three members who voted against the latest deal. That deal has since bounced back from the Police and Fire Pension Fund board with changes, with council set to make its decision in the coming weeks.
In 2012, she voted against expanding the city’s human rights ordinance to include sexual orientation.
Her At-Large seat was one of the first to draw an opponent, but she said in a February 2014 interview she didn’t mind.
“Everybody is a part of it. I love the process,” she said then. “It’s part of the liberty we have.”
She’s raised almost $116,000 for her re-election effort —almost half from self-loans — but faces stiff competition in that department.
The well-backed challenger
One of Daniels’ first opponents also has outraised her.
Since declaring for office last January, Republican Anna Brosche has found support of more than $190,000 — the most of any council candidate.
She has endorsements to match, ranging from JaxBiz and the Northeast Florida Builders Association to the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, Jax Young Voters Coalition and The Florida Times-Union.
What led her to run was prompting by others.
She’s active in the community, serving as board chair of the United Way of Northeast Florida and programs within the University of North Florida, among other outreach efforts.
As she expanded her role in the community, people kept asking about a run for office.
“It finally caught me as something I should consider,” she said.
She lives in the redrawn District 9, which doesn’t have an incumbent, but said she wanted to serve the city as a whole instead of just one area.
The past year has been a learning experience. She frequently attends council meetings or watches them online, learning about the structure and system in which council operates. She said she thinks she’s as educated as she can be sitting in the stands. She wants voters to let her continue that education on the other side.
Part of her platform leans on her 20-plus years of experience as a public accountant on the auditing side of the business.
“I understand how businesses work,” she said, noting the council’s current CPA — Stephen Joost — is term-limited.
With that background, she said she understands the numbers behind the city’s annual budget and beyond. The majority of bills council reviews have some sort of fiscal impact, she said, which she wants to analyze to ensure it’s the proper risk and reward for taxpayers.
Brosche said she favors the pension deal in front of council members but is still evaluating how to pay for it. That includes a sales tax, which she hasn’t ruled out.
Expanding the human rights ordinance is something she supports.
“I don’t believe anyone should be the victim of discrimination,” she said.
While the two are considered frontrunners for the spot, a name from Daniels’ past has re-emerged.
The familiar name
The person Daniels narrowly defeated in 2011? David Taylor, who lost by 1,129 of the 184,309 votes cast in the race.
He said he’s running again because he didn’t see a “true conservative” in the race. His motto is “Faith, Family, Fiscal Responsibility” and he bills himself as a Reagan Conservative Republican, according to a campaign Facebook page.
Taylor said that first run taught him a few things.
“I learned it’s really hard on your family,” he said. “Anyone that puts their name out there ought to get a standing ovation.”
Another aspect he learned was that Jacksonville voters tended to vote along party lines, which he attributes as one of the reasons he narrowly was bested.
He is the founder of the Law Offices of David A. Taylor and has more than 17 years of state and federal court experience. He also is vice president of David A. Taylor Air Conditioning and Heating.
As far as what he’s pitching to voters, a lot of it has to do with the city’s finances and growing businesses.
“We still have financial problems, we’re still talking about pension reform, still talking about the budget,” he said. “I want to be part of the solution.”
Government, he said, should provide core functions such as police, fire and security — when it comes to business-related matters, it’s better to “get out of the way.”
He doesn’t believe the current pension deal before council will pass and paying down unfunded liability could be done through growth, not taxes. Part of that would be through businesses coming to the Cecil Field area and the port. On the latter, he supports dredging and believes the federal government could be leaned on for up 80 percent of the costs.
Taylor in 2011 was suspended by The Florida Bar for 30 days and directed to ethics school after the organization said he deposited a $2,000 check into his account that was meant for another attorney.
He said he learned a lot during that process, calling it a humiliating and humbling experience. He said he “candidly didn’t know” what he did was inappropriate, referring to it as subcontracting that “99 percent of the private sector” does.
“I didn’t know it was something the (Florida) Bar would take issue with,” he said. “I learned what you can and can’t do.”
He joined the race in January and has raised close to $25,000, far behind two Brosche and Daniels. But, he said, he can counter with effective campaigning and his right-leaning stances.
As far as defeating an incumbent, he said he doesn’t think enough has been done in the past four years and the mayor’s administration and council “haven’t gotten the job done.”
On the human rights ordinance, he said he is against expanding it to include sexual orientation.
“For me it goes back to the core biblical principles,” he said. “It’s something I can’t support.”
The grassroots newcomer
There’s one last candidate in the race who joined more than a year ago and hasn’t raised much money — but that was part of his plan.
Terry Reed joined the fray for At-Large Group 1 in February of 2014. He’s since raised almost $18,000, last among the candidates.
The lack of funds in his campaign coffers hasn’t dampened his spirit.
“I’ve been called to help Jacksonville,” said Reed. “I’ve got a vision and a plan that’s too large for a district.”
Reed served in a variety of roles with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office during his 25-year career. With that type of background, one of his main platform points is crime reduction.
Having grown up in a crime-ridden area and seeing it firsthand, he says he understands how it works. And how to make it better by pushing for the “top heavy” sheriff’s office administration to be cut in half. Those savings could be used to expand patrol efforts.
He said he has gone the grassroots method of campaigning, talking to neighbors, visiting car washes, barber shops and nursing homes.
If elected, he said he’d pursue creating an “Academia Mulitplex” that would court schools and universities to bring various programs to Jacksonville.
“Harvard isn’t moving to Jacksonville,” he said, “but we can have programs here, similar to what FSCJ (Florida State College at Jacksonville) does. The concept is there.”
Another goal would be redeveloping Downtown, starting with bringing a different kind of theme park to the neighborhood that would attract visitors and collect revenue that could help the city.
“When you go out of town, you spend money,” he said. “Jacksonville is no different than Orlando … we can offer music, fine food and the atmosphere.”
He is still researching the current pension deal and a way to possibly fund it, but is certain about the human rights ordinance expansion.
“I’m in favor of it,” he said. “I believe in protecting people’s rights.”