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4 candidates qualify for at-large Jacksonville City Council seat to replace Hazouri

City Council President Tommy Hazouri
Bob Self
Florida Times-Union file photo
Four candidates are running to fill the seat vacated by the late Tommy Hazouri.

The race to fill the position vacated by the late Tommy Hazouri has been finalized, with four candidates qualifying by Friday’s deadline to run for the at-large Group 3 seat on the Jacksonville City Council.

Democrats Tracye Polson and “Coach” James Jacobs and Republicans Nick Howland and Howland “Howdy” Russell have qualified for the special election, which will be held Dec. 7.

While six candidates had filed with the Duval County Supervisor of Elections, only four met the candidate criteria for the seat and paid the qualifying fee by the Oct. 1 deadline.

While every Jacksonville voter can vote for at-large candidates, the candidates must live in the Group 3 area, which stretches from Mandarin to the San Pablo area.

Howland, a Navy veteran who works in private equity, has the endorsement of several prominent Republicans, including Jacksonville City Council Vice President Terrance Freeman and U.S. Rep. John Rutherford.

Russell is the owner and founder of the local restaurant chain Jumpin’ Jax House of Food, with three locations. He’s running in his first election. Russell was profiled by WJCT News partner theJacksonville Daily Record as a top entrepreneur in 2020.

Polson, a licensed social worker, boasts endorsements from local elected Democrats, including Rep. Angie Nixon and Sen. Audrey Gibson. She also received Hazouri’s endorsement when she unsuccessfully ran for a state House seat in 2018.

Jacobs is making his second run at the at-large seat. He previously ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Hazouri in 2019. According to his candidate statement, Jacobs is an alumnus of Edward Waters University and has been involved in the Duval County School system as a coach, substitute teacher, cafeteria cook and program director over the course of two decades.

All four candidates will face off in a Unitary First Election on Dec. 7, where anyone who wins a simple majority will be declared the winner. If no one is able to secure a majority, the top two finishers will face off in a runoff on Feb. 22 next year.

The winner of the special election will be seated for just one year, serving the rest of Hazouri’s remaining term, which ends in 2023. A regular election will then be held for the seat again for the full 4-year-term.

The deadline to register to vote in the first election is Nov. 8. Voters seeking to vote by mail must request their ballot by Nov. 4. The voter registration deadline for the runoff is Jan. 24.

Raymon Troncoso can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @RayTroncoso.

Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.