City Councilman Terrance Freeman has filed to run for the At-Large Group 1 seat currently held by Anna Brosche - a fellow Republican who has hinted at challenging incumbent Mayor Lenny Curry. But Brenda Priestly Jackson, who’s running for the seat Freeman is now vacating, said he doesn’t meet the residency requirements to run.
“It is time to file and today I’m excited to say that I’ve filed at-large with the hopes of being able to earn the votes of residents throughout the city,” Freeman told WJCT Wednesday.
“Serving the residents of District 10 has been one of the greatest blessings of my life,” he said. “As the first Republican to serve there since consolidation, I know first hand the challenges that the community faces. And honestly, we’ve all come to grow and learn that those challenges don’t have a party affiliation.”
Brosche announced in December that she was considering a run for Mayor, and has since been a target of Lenny Curry’s Political Action Committee. At the time of this story’s publication she had not yet filed to run for reelection in the At-Large Group 1 race or for Jacksonville mayor.
“Right now we are really focused on Anna and what her decision is going to be regarding her future in politics,” Brosche’s spokeswoman, Ryan Wiggins, wrote to WJCT. “At this time, we are not going to comment on other candidates’ decisions to enter a race.”
Freeman - who currently holds the District 10 seat - said he didn’t make the decision to run for the At-Large seat for any strategic reasons.
“I’m not psychic, so I’m not able to really tell you where I have the best chances of winning,” he said. “District 10 is my heart and my family and at-large gives me a chance now to grow that family, and I’m excited about being able to serve so many more folks in our community.”
Brenda Priestly Jackson, an attorney and former Duval County School Board member who has filed to run for City Council District 10, claims Freeman does not satisfy the residency requirements to run for the At-Large Group 1 seat - an allegation that may sound familiar to those who follow Jacksonville politics.
Jackson sued Gov. Rick Scott in July after he appointed Freeman to replace suspended City Councilman Reginald Brown, claiming the move was unlawful due to residency issues. Her lawsuit was dismissed by Circuit Judge Waddell Wallace III, who wrote that the court had no jurisdiction to determine whether Freeman was qualified to be appointed or not.
Freeman has said in the past that he leased a two bedroom home at 7101 Gunston Hall Ct., which is in District 10, on July 10, 2018 - the day he was appointed to the City Council by Gov. Scott. Prior to that he lived in Mandarin, which is not part of District 10 or At-Large Group 1’s residency area. Freeman then moved into another District 10 home, where he still resides, on July 13, 2018.
The Duval County Supervisors of Elections Office has confirmed that Freeman registered at those two addresses on those exact dates, but Jackson alleges Freeman’s registration at the Gunston Hall Ct. address is “fraudulent.”
“He tried to use it to assert his residency claim prior to moving to his current address,” she said. “That’s the issue and why he, OGC [the Office of the General Council] and the governor wanted our case dismissed. They didn’t want the residency issues factored in the litigation… and by getting the case dismissed, because Judge Wallace said the court didn’t have jurisdiction, the residency was never addressed and revealed.”
“He never rented two rooms there,” Jackson said of the Gunston Hall Ct. address. “He has no supporting documentation to corroborate living there and he and his family never stayed overnight there. By definition residency means a permanent intent to remain. He did not.”
“She made these same claims in her earlier frivolous lawsuit and she lost,” Freeman said in response. “This is old news.”
“The dates and the timeline, they’re documented,” he said. “They’re public record. All that was turned into the media, it was published, so whatever comments were made, they were made and that’s their opinion, but we have what the judge rendered.”
If Freeman’s residency at Gunston Hall Ct. is valid then this is all a moot point.
But Jackson claims Freeman and his family of six never lived in the two leased bedrooms at that Gunston Hall Ct. address. According to Jackson, that means Freeman did not begin establishing residency until he moved into his current home on July 13.
If that turns out to be the case, on January 11, the last day of qualifying for Jacksonville’s unitary elections, Freeman would have a total of 182 days of residency in At-Large Group 1’s residency area… one day short of the 183 days required in the Jacksonville City Charter.