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Northeast Florida Democrats Divided Ahead Of Televised Presidential Debate

Tuesday is the first nationally televised debate among the 2016 Democratic presidential hopefuls. Five candidates will square off starting at 8:30 p.m. on CNN.

Many Democrats in Northeast Florida are still undecided about who should move on to the general election.

The St. Johns County town of Hastings has about 600 residents, and few of them are Democrats. Carol Holtz runs the town’s Democratic Club, a group with about 15 active members.

“We just have to do the best we can with what we have,” she says.

Holtz says at one time, it seemed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in for the Democratic presidential nomination. But now, “I don’t know,” she says. “I won’t say that I’m concerned, but I’m not as optimistic for her as I was maybe two years ago.”

Clinton faces challenges from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Holtz says her club members haven’t yet agreed which one they’ll get behind.

Meanwhile, in Jacksonville, groups have formed in support of the two front runners, Clinton and Sanders. Jacksonville for Bernie Sanders is hosting a debate watch party with live music at 1904. And the group Jacksonville for Hillary is encouraging its members to host private watch parties at home. 

Jessica Palombo supervises local news gathering and production, podcasts and web editorial content for WJCT News, ADAPT and Jacksonville Today. She is an award-winning writer and journalist with bylines including NPR, Experience Magazine, and The Gainesville Sun. She has a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism from Syracuse University and is an alumna of the University of Florida. A nearly lifelong resident of Jacksonville, she considers herself lucky to be raising her own children in her hometown. Follow Jessica Palombo on Twitter: @JaxJessicaP