Democrat Jimmy Peluso and Republican Joe Hogan will advance to a May 16 runoff for Jacksonville City Council District 7 in the city’s most expensive City Council district race.
Hogan, a builder, raised $28,000 in his bid for the district. Peluso, who raised about $165,000 and self-funded another $3,100, is a lobbyist for Vystar Credit Union, a former City Council candidate and a longtime volunteer for Democratic campaigns.
Democrat John Phillips, who had raised about $40,000 and self-funded another about $350,000 as of last month, is a civil attorney with a history of representing celebrities, activists and victims with high-profile trials. But the money wasn’t enough to overcome Peluso, who had been running in the race for months when Phillips entered.
Fellow Democrat Kim Pryor and independent Parrish King each raised $18,000 and $14,000, respectively.
The district came about after the Jacksonville City Council lost a racial gerrymandering lawsuit and a federal court ordered new maps drawn by civil-rights plaintiffs, including the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP.
Even though the court-ordered district was drawn specifically to allow Black voters to elect their preferred candidate, no Black candidates filed in the race, and all five candidates are white.
The district also holds some of the city’s most distinctive neighborhoods: Downtown, Eastside, College Gardens, New Town, Brooklyn, Mixon Town, Riverside, Avondale, Murray Hill, Ortega, Venetia, Fairfax, the Mid-Westside, Sugar Hill, Phoenix and Fairfield.
Most of the campaigning had centered around the two candidates with the most money: Democrats Peluso and Phillips.
Peluso focused his message on policy specifics, emphasizing his obsession with even the “nerdiest” of topics as he put it at one forum while talking about land-use zoning overlays. He committed to supporting a tenants bill of rights, increasing funding for parks and recreation and fighting for better sidewalks, curbs and bicycle infrastructure.
Phillips drew attention to his willingness to fight those in power, pointing to past lawsuits against the Sheriff’s Office or Twitter battles with Mayor Lenny Curry. He accused Peluso, a lobbyist for Vystar, of being too cozy with allies of Curry, and Phillips wasn’t shy about using negative campaign tactics against Peluso.
“Nobody has served the underserved more than me,” Phillips told a crowd at a Murray Hill forum. He closed the event by saying, if elected, “I will bring compassion. I will bring love. And if needed, I will bring a little of the other stuff, right? I’ll speak truth to power. I’ll bring action.”
Hogan has pitched himself as a straight-shooter. A conservative running in a heavily Democratic district who’s willing to tell voters what he thinks. He endorsed Democratic Mayor Alvin Brown over Curry, a Republican, in 2015, and he said he’s willing to think independently.
“I will be an open ear,” Hogan told one crowd during the campaign. “I’m not going to tell you one thing and then go down to City Hall and make a deal in the backroom and vote differently. You get what you see with me, the good and the bad. … I have a vision that I’d love to see the city excel and grow.”
Correction: An earlier version of the story stated an incorrect amount that Peluso self-funded. It was $3,100, not $33,000.