Jacksonville City Council President Scott Wilson said May 25 he continues to back Tommy Hazouri as the next Council president.
Wilson, a Republican, said that 15 council members have pledged to support Hazouri, a Democrat, for the position. The Council is scheduled to vote on a new president May 26.
On May 20, Council member Danny Becton wrote a letter to Council member Rory Diamond, a fellow Republican, announcing his intention to run as president.
“Since Councilman Becton decided at the last minute to enter the race, I have been receiving a lot of pressure and threats from members of my party to change my vote from Mr. Hazouri to Mr. Becton," Wilson said in a statement.
Wilson, who is running for Duval County Clerk of Circuit and County Courts, said in an emailed statement that he has been told voting for Hazouri "may very likely do political damage to me in that election."
"Every Republican voter, they say, will probably receive a piece of direct mail condemning me for voting for Councilman Hazouri," the statement said.
"Politics be damned. My word and my reputation are more important to me than an election," the statement said.
"When I make a commitment, I keep it. Otherwise, why would anyone trust or believe what I say?"
According to Jacksonville Daily Record news partner News4Jax.com's reporter Jim Piggott, Wilson said the threats are not coming from the local Republican executive committee but from other party members. Wilson would not say from whom.
The Republican Party of Duval County did not offer an endorsement in the election, according to a statement it gave News4Jax.
"We encourage our Republican elected leaders to support other Republicans but we trust them to make their own choice in terms of Council leadership. Our focus is on the very partisan race for President in November, and the re-election of Donald Trump," the statement said.
Hazouri told News4Jax that the council should not be about politics and admires that Wilson is laying his political future on this.
“That’s Scott Wilson,” Hazouri said. “He keeps his commitment, he’s full of integrity and I think that’s why he’s been the leader he’s been, especially the last several months dealing with JEA, dealing with the coronavirus dealing with the other topical issues.”
Hazouri is a former mayor, state legislator and Duval County School Board member. He endorsed Republican Mayor Lenny Curry’s successful reelection bid.
Curry told News4Jax he did not want to get involved in the issue
“(Councilman Hazouri and I) have had a great working relationship over the years and I look forward to continuing that,” Curry said.
“To that, I worked on bills as well with Danny Becton. The Council was going to have to do its business. Tommy is the expected successor based on the pledges I’ve seen and typically people honor their pledges.”