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0000017b-82f4-dd8b-a7fb-82ffe48f0000Florida's public radio stations are teaming up to bring you comprehensive, statewide 2016 election coverage.

Florida House District 13: Mark Griffin, Tracie Davis Hope To Succeed Reggie Fullwood

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Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office/Wayman Ministries
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Democrat Tracie Davis (Left) and Republican Mark Griffin (Right)

Jacksonville voters are choosing between two fresh faces for who will represent them in state House District 13. It covers the city’s urban core and surrounding neighborhoods.

Incumbent Democratic Rep. Reggie Fullwood had to drop out of the race after he pleaded guilty to fraud charges last month.

Republican Mark Griffin faces Democrat Tracie Davis in the heavily Democratic district.

Griffin says he’s not a typical conservative. He pledges to bring more economic development to the urban core at the same time as helping ex-convicts re-enter society.

“These are not Republican or Democrat issues,” he said. “If anything, some of them are somewhat left-leaning.”

Griffin is a certified public accountant from Tallahassee who moved to Jacksonville more than 30 years ago to work as an auditor for CSX. For most of that time, he’s also been pastor at Wayman Ministries AME Church and charter school—all while being a registered Democrat—until seven years ago.

Griffin also said he’s proud of his pastoral advocacy for the residents of affordable housing complex Eureka Garden, where he was also instrumental in getting a playground built.

“My ability to read and understand budgets, to make sure that our tax dollars are being allocated in the most efficient manner — I think that’s very key,” he said. “Also, my work as a community leader and an advocate has allowed me to see at the ground or grassroots level how some policies that we think are well intentioned, how they actually play out.”

In a year where both major presidential candidates have low approval ratings, down-ballot candidates could be in a precarious situation. House District 13 has a large African-American population and has been safely Democratic. Given those demographics, Griffin won’t say who he’s supporting for the highest office in the land.

“I won’t publicly make that statement because I know that on one side or the other, whichever way that I answer that question, I risk losing votes,” he said.

In contrast, Tracie Davis says she’s enthusiastically supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Davis is a Jacksonville native and veteran of the Duval County Supervisor of Elections Office. She said her intimate knowledge of education and election policy and her ability to cross the aisle make her the ideal candidate.

“You don’t conduct successful elections throughout the years if people do not trust you, if you are not transparent, if you are not accountable. For 14 years in the elections office, and my previous experience as a teacher, that’s what it’s always been,” she said.

She was also a special education teacher for seven years.

Like Griffin, Davis doesn't have experience in elected office, though she ran against Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan in March. Davis also echoes Griffin’s pledge to bring more jobs to the urban core.

“Something that is definitely needed in House District 13 is an increase of small business startups, and I understand that from ground up. I also understand the elections process from inside out. So, I feel like that would be a benefit to me in Tallahassee,” she said.

In August, she narrowly lost to incumbent Reggie Fullwood in the Democratic primary. Because of Fullwood’s late departure, voters will still see his name on ballots, though votes for him will count for her.

That might make an otherwise easy election more difficult. But Davis says she isn't sweating it.

“I’m the Democrat that they’re going to darken that oval for, not Reggie Fullwood. I’m that Democrat that’s going to work for them because they already trust me,” she said.

Early voting begins Monday Oct. 24.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.