No ‘participation award’: Democrats opt not to challenge Republicans in some city races

Candidates running unopposed in several key races in upcoming municipal elections

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In seven weeks, Jacksonville voters go to the polls to elect new city leaders.

The mayor’s race will be the hot ticket, but in some of those races, there isn’t really a choice to make. Those important races are already decided, not by voters, but because there’s only one candidate in the race

The sheriff, supervisor of elections, tax collector and several city council candidates are running unopposed.

Sheriff T.K. Waters will continue in his role because all potential challengers have dropped out after the special election in November.

Duval County Tax Collector Jim Overton, who currently holds the job, will also be re-elected without opposition.

Jerry Holland will shift from his current role as property appraiser to become supervisor of elections once again -- a post he held eight years ago.

Holland, Overton and Waters are all Republicans.

Mike Binder, who oversees UNF’s public opinion research lab, said money to pay for campaigns is probably a big factor but so many races lacking opposition is surprising.

“It’s strange that there’s not any Democrats running for these offices,” Binder said. “It seems like there is a good opportunity there to run. Perhaps they were disincentivized by the fall elections and how poorly it went for Democrats. The other side of that coin is they might not have been able to find resources for them either.”

A spokesman for the local Republican party said they are “pleasantly surprised” to not be facing opposition in some races.

Daniel Henry, the head of the Duval Democratic Party, explained why it seems Democratic candidates are shying away.

“Many of these same offices that you’re speaking on have historically either had incumbents go without being challenged, or have races in which only Republicans competed in them,” Henry said. “For us, what’s important is for us to be able to compete in races where we have a realistic shot of victory. Politics doesn’t provide a participation award. And for us to be able to compete in the races where we have a shot of victory we must make sure that we’re putting our resources in areas where we actually have a chance.”

One area where the city will see changes is the city council, where some seats are unchallenged.

But in District 7, a redrawn area that includes Downtown, Springfield, Riverside and Ortega, there are five candidates running: three Democrats, one Republican and one candidate with no party affiliation.

Binder believes the results of that race could actually change the direction of the city.

“The pro-development wing of the council is going to change. There’s going to be some new faces in there potentially, in council district seven, that could be a very different face,” Binder said. “And they might have a very different outlook for what that means for development Downtown.”

New voter cards are going out now, and if you want to get a vote-by-mail ballot, you need to make that request. It won’t automatically be sent. Reminders to make those requests have been mailed out to voters. So far 30,000 voters have requested mail-in ballots.

About the Author:

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