Issue #101: Results for the First Round of the 2023 Jacksonville Elections
Many runoffs to come
On Tuesday, the city of Jacksonville, which makes up all of Duval County, held its first round of local elections. The city of just under 1,000,000 people had several major contests; which are contested under a Louisiana-style jungle primary. If anyone can get 50% in the first round, its over, otherwise a runoff is held. Candidates can run with party labels, which most do.
The city has a Mayor, 5 at-large commissioners; and 14 single-member districts as well. A redistricting battle has been ongoing for months, with a court implementing a map over the desire of the commissioners. The battle over the map largely revolved around packing of black voters in a smaller number of districts. Read far more background here.
The map was implemented in January, giving many campaigns little time to adjust to new borders.
While Duval has held a GOP edge, it is known to split tickets locally, with many different coalitions existing. Democrats, however, are on a slump right now in the city. After losing the 2015 Mayor’s race, they didn’t field anyone in 2019. That led to a massive turnout collapse of 2019, which led to several other Democrats losing races. Then in 2022 they lost the at-large council seat in a special election after Democrat Tommy Hazouri passed away.
While Biden won the city by 4% in 2020, the 2022 landslides saw Rubio win by 9% and DeSantis win by 12%. Despite these swings, local democrats have been contesting many races.
For more Jacksonville backstory and past races, you can read older articles of mine below.
A look at the 2015 runoff, where Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown lost re-election
A look at the 2019 disaster for Duval Democrats
A look at Kim Daniels, the insane Democrat of Jacksonville, from 2018
A look at Donna Deegan, the Democratic candidate for Mayor for 2023
A look at the special election for Tommy Hazouri’s council seat, and his legacy
With that, lets move on to the 2023 results. Note I am not covering every race, largely sticking to Dem v GOP affairs for the moment. Many additional races will be going to runoffs as well, many with D v D or R v R contests.
The 2023 First Round Results
The premier contest was the race for Mayor, with incumbent Lenny Curry termed out. The major candidates were
Donna Deegan (D) - A newscaster and former Congressional candidate. By far the Democratic frontrunner.
Daniel Davis (R) - A former councilman, state house member, and head of the JAX Chamber of Commerce. Widely considered the GOP frontrunner
Al Ferraro (R) - Councilman
Audrey Gibson (D) - Former State Senator
LeAnna Cumber (R) - Councilwoman
The race was very nasty, with Davis working to ensure Ferraro or Cumber, who were running to his right, did not slip past him. Gibson never raised much money, and while it was believed she would peel many African-American voters away from Deegan, it was not expected she’d make a runoff.
The first round results, after millions spent, were what the polling expected. Deegan way ahead, with Davis also making the runoff.
If we combine the results for all D and R candidates (not all are listed on the above map), then Republicans narrowly outpaced Democrats. This is something I expected thanks to the Republican turnout advantage.
Democratic turnout was around 27% and 34% for Republicans. Democrats still hold a registration advantage, but they must turn out better for the runoff’s to give Democrats a shot at county-wide wins. They were saved this time by GOP splits in the vote.
Another major county-wide race is the election of County Property Appraiser. This seat is open due to Republican Jerry Holland being term-limited. Democrat Joyce Morgan, a current city councilmember for Seat 1, almost got to 50% without needing a runoff. Republican Jason Fischer, a former State House member, advanced.
What will be interesting about the runoff is Fischer’s baggage. The former State House member was well known to want to run or State Senate or Congress, but got squeezed out by GOP leadership. Property Appraiser is clearly his backup, and Becton, a councilmember, was the choice of the outgoing PA. That said, GOP consolidation could easily happen.
In City At-Large 1, Republican Terrance Freeman easily got re-elected against Libertarian Eric Parker.
This race was notable in that Freeman, who is black, still lost the black community to Parker. In addition, many ballots were blank in the heavily Democratic blocks.
This dynamic is actually not that unusual. Whenever one party doesn’t contest a race, a third party becomes the protest vote.
In Council At-Large 2, Republican incumbent Ron Salem bested Democrat Joshua Hicks. Considering the other races saw GOP combined shares over 50%, Salem winning isn’t especially surprising.
More than anything, Hicks was hurt by turnout being lower for Democrats. Without Salem having a major scandal, besting the incumbent on bad turnout would be impossible.
At-Large district 5 is heading to a runoff between Republican Chris Miller and Democrat Charles Garrison.
Fellow Democrat Nahshon Nicks was strong in the city’s black community, allowing him to win more precincts than Garrison, but Garrison benefitted from having modest 2nd place shares in more precincts.
Here are the results for the city-wide contests broken down by the respective council districts. For these breakdowns, I combined all DEM or GOP candidates for the total party percentages.
So how did these 2023 races compare to the 2020 Presidential contest? That year, Biden won 7/14 districts. The table below shows the D % v R % by districts. The 2023 Democratic candidate under-performed Biden overall, by varying degrees. However, this is far better than 2022, that’s for sure.
The last column shows the races for the single-member districts. Many contests are single-party affairs, but several prominent runoffs will be taking place. I’m going to look at just a few for now, and will likely do a runoff preview/follow up down the line.
First, I want to note District 1. This result may seem shocking to those not following the races. A Biden +11 seat going to easily GOP? The x-factor here was Republican Ken Amaro, a very popular TV journalist. Amaro was essentially a lock for the race, and Democrats did not make major efforts to challenge him. He was always going to win that post, with the district’s ticket-splitting nature on full display.
One council race that is a near-lock to go DEM in a runoff but has a D v R contest is District 7, which covers African-American neighborhoods in downtown and lefty Riverside. The district’s only major GOP blocks are in the south end, near the military base. Republican Joseph Hogan, son of the current Elections Supervisor, managed to make the runoff against Democrat Jimmy Peluso.
A Phillips v Peluso runoff would have been more interesting, as the two democrats hammered each-other in the contest. Instead, Peluso is widely expected to beat Hogan.
Right in the same area is District 9, which covers the growing communities just west of the River, right outside of the Riverside community. Here, Incumbent Tyrona Clark-Murray, who won a special election last year, had many democratic challengers. Her district saw big changes with redistricting, so her incumbency advantage was very minor. In this contest, lone Republican Mike Muldoon got 47% to Murray’s 15%. Muldoon by far spent the most, well over $100,000, and was originally running in a much more GOP-heavy district.
One might think Muldoon would be favored or a runoff, but the district still tilted Democratic, despite poor turnout. This is a region that has been growing more diverse and blue with time. It is very likely Murray will consolidate Democratic support here. How runoff turnout goes will be very important for Democratic chances. This seat backed Biden easily, but the 2022 turnout saw DeSantis get within single-digits here. If turnout is bad in the runoff, this could slip away from Democrats, which would be a major blunder.
There are several other results of note and contests to be wrapped up in runoffs. Expect more coverage from me down the line.
The runoff is May 16th!