Republican Nick Howland clinches City Council special election

At-Large Group 3 seat was vacated in September following the death of Tommy Hazouri

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Republican Nick Howland on Tuesday night clinched the necessary number of votes to take the City Council At-Large Group 3 seat.

At about 7:45 p.m., with 196 of 199 precincts reporting, Howland maintained a strong lead over his opponent, Democrat Tracye Polson. Howland’s lead was greater than the remaining number of votes left to tabulate according to data from the Duval County Supervisor of Elections’ website.

At just before 10:30 p.m., all precincts were reporting and all mail-in and early votes had been counted. Howland won with 51.69% of the vote to Polson’s 48.31%.

The seat was left vacant when Tommy Hazouri, who was a former council president and mayor, died in September.

The election went to a runoff in December, when none of the four candidates were able to get more than 50% of the vote. The top two vote-getters — Howland and Polson — advanced. There was early indication the race for the At-Large Group 3 seat would be a close one.

Polson held a slight lead in early and mail-in votes, but when the vast majority of the election day votes were counted in the first 30 minutes after the polls closed, Howland had the clear advantage and held the lead throughout the night.

The 20% voter turnout was higher than what the Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan originally expected. He’d planned on 10 to 15%.

RELATED: 20% voter turnout in City Council special election: Higher than anticipated

Howland’s election watch party was at Culhane’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on the Southside. Familiar faces, like Republican Rep. John Rutherford, a former Jacksonville sheriff, spoke before Howland took the victory.

“It’s an exciting night. We anticipated we’d do well, but we did better than we expected,” Howland said. “It means our message resonated, which is a strong support for public safety. creating jobs and investing in every neighborhood in Jacksonville.”

When asked what was the first thing he hopes to accomplish in office, Howland responded:

“Immediately we’re going to be faced with looking at the budget. I want to help the sheriff figure out how he’s going to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe.”

Polson’s watch party was held at Bread and Board Downtown. She said she was grateful for the people who got out and vote.

“The voters have spoken, and team Polson did not prevail” Polson said. “I am so, so grateful for every person that voted for me. I’m so incredibly proud of the campaign we ran.”

Polson said although the results were upsetting, she wants to continue to help the city.

“A special election is a Herculean lift. There was no president on the ballot or governor, and I’m carrying Tommy Hazouri every step of the way,” she said. “I will continue to do my best to care for those here in Duval.”

RELATED: In their own words: 2 candidates running for open Jacksonville City Council seat | Howland, Polson address Jacksonville topics in 1st public debate

A statement from the Republican Party of Duval County reads:

“Tonight’s victory is a credit to all of the hardworking volunteers, staff, and grassroots supporters who worked tirelessly throughout this campaign. With your help, we sent hundreds of thousands of text messages, live phone calls and canvassed thousands of voters at their door.

An additional statement from Dean Black, chairman of the Republican Party of Duval County reads:

“Thank you all for all your tireless work and congratulations again to Councilman-elect Nick Howland. Now, onward to new victories for Governor Ron DeSantis and all of our Republican nominees in November! WE DID IT.”

A statement from Duval Democrats reads:

“Although Dr. Tracye Polson was unsuccessful tonight, we are immensely proud of the campaign she ran. We know that Polson deeply cares about our community and dedicated the last 4-months to spreading her message to voters.

“As we reflect on this race, one thing is clear, Nick Howland ran a campaign riddled with deception and mistruths. While he occupies this council seat temporarily, we are committed to holding him accountable for every decision he will make on City Council. The late Councilman Tommy Hazouri dedicated his life to fighting for the people of Duval County. We will continue Tommy’s fighting spirit and hold all public officials accountable.

“As we move forward, we encourage our voters to remain engaged and continue to make their voices heard.”

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.