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Democrat Tracye Polson has more campaign cash than all other candidates combined. Most of it is her own money.

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Claire Heddles
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WJCT News

Ahead of Tuesday’s countywide election to fill the at-large council seat vacated by the late Tommy Hazouri, Democrat Tracye Polson has more money in her campaign than all the other candidates combined, more than $317,000 in contributions.

But almost two-thirds of that money is from her own pocket. According to campaign finance reports filed Friday, Polson, who unsuccessfully campaigned for the state House in 2018, has loaned $201,000 to her council campaign.

The three other candidates have each put less than $10,000 each of their own money into their campaigns.

"It’s extremely important to me to reach as many voters as possible in every neighborhood in Duval County," Polson wrote in an email in response to questions about her financial contributions to the campaign. "Especially considering the time constraints of this special election, that kind of outreach takes funding."

She has also far surpassed the other candidates in individual donations, with more than 400 contributions.

The other top fundraiser, Republican Nick Howland, has run his campaign with about $87,000, more than half from businesses or political committees.

He's received $23,000 from political committees, $10,000 of which traces back to one address in Tallahassee.

In Florida, political committees can only contribute $1,000 per candidate for countywide office. Howland has received $1,000 payments from 10 different political committees that all have the same address and same chairperson: William S. Jones, who has a history of funneling money into local races across Florida.

Howland has also loaned $4,000 of his own money to his campaign.

Fellow Republican Howland Russell dropped his name into the hat at the prompting of the local conservative Christian political action committee, Stand4Jax. He’s raised just over $16,000, mostly from individual donors.

Democrat James Jacobs is funding his campaign with about $14,5000, most of it from his own pocket. He’s raised about $5,000 from individual contributors.

The two candidates with the least funds have both accused their respective parties of overlooking their campaigns.

Republican Russell said some candidates “have a lot of money at their disposal because they're the chosen one.”

“They're chosen and will probably be expected to vote in particular ways with particular subjects,” Russell said during an interview in November.

Democrat James Jacobs asked the election supervisor for an “official investigation of the Duval Democratic Party for Bias Candidate Support,” in an email last month to the county’s party leaders, election supervisor Mike Hogan and a group of reporters.

“I am very concerned about fair support from the Duval Democratic Party,” Jacobs wrote. He has billed himself as the “everyday person” candidate in the race.

The Duval Democratic Party said in a statement it has not endorsed one Democratic candidate over the other.

“All party materials and communications, as a matter of policy, list both candidates equally,” Daniel Henry, party chairman, said in an emailed statement.

But the fact remains the candidates do have vastly different budgets for their own, independent campaign advertising.

Jacobs has spent about $14,000 on yard signs and radio advertisements. Tracye Polson has spend more than $280,000 on calling voters, printed advertisements and political consultants, according to finance records.

"I’m very fortunate to have both my own finances to contribute to that outreach and a large network of grassroots volunteers and individual donors," Polson said in an email about her outsize campaign investment compared to the other candidates.

On the right, Russell has spent about $14,000, mostly on social media, and printed advertisements and fundraising efforts. Nick Howland has spent almost $78,000, largely on targeted advertising and media campaigns.

Early voting ended Sunday at 15 sites across the city. However, there were five fewer locations than during last year’s presidential election.

Election day is Tuesday, Dec. 7, when voters will have to vote at their precinct between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.