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Jacksonville Rep. Fullwood Draws Republican Challenger

Darren Gardner

In addition to a recent indictment for wire fraud, Representative Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, now has another re-election hurdle: his first challenger in six years.

Republican Darren Gardner has jumped into the race for the district that includes the urban core and Jacksonville’s Northside.

Fullwood is battling charges he misused campaign cash and failed to file federal income taxes. On top of that, he’s being sued for negligence in a car wreck, though he denies being involved.

Gardner, an Edward Waters College graduate and event promoter, said he realizes just how little opposition Fullwood has faced.

“(I’ve) been waiting on an opportunity where I felt the time is right for me to run,” Gardner said.  “I’ve just been in the background just waiting. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Gardner is originally from Lake Wales and moved to Jacksonville to attend college in 2004. Since graduating in 2009, he’s been active in EWC’s Black Male College Explorer Program and the National Conference on Preventing Crime in the Black Community.

At the conference two years ago, Gardner told our partner News4Jax that public safety issues in black communities stem from a deficient culture — statements he stands behind today.

“Doing bad is a good thing and it’s our mentality. My whole position is that we have to change our way of thinking in order to get our community to where it needs to be,” he said.

Gardner says he’d seek to lift people up out of poverty through education and cultural changes, but that may be a tough conservative message to sell in a district that’s almost three-to-one Democratic.

Still, Gardner says he has the support of the area’s Republican establishment and he believes voters will embrace him. 

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.