Conservatives Place Their Bets in Jacksonville House Race
Around the State
Conservatives from Jacksonville and the First Coast are placing their bets in the competitive Republican primary for an open Florida House seat representing parts of Duval County.
On Monday, freshman U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., announced he was backing attorney and Republican activist Paul Renner in the primary to replace state Rep. Dan Davis, R-Jacksonville, who is leaving the House to focus on running the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. In his endorsement, DeSantis stressed Renner’s service in the Navy.
“As a fellow Navy veteran, Paul Renner has defended our country overseas and is well-versed on the principles that make America unique,” said DeSantis. “As a state representative, he will protect and defend our Constitution, champion conservative values and lead the fight for limited government in Tallahassee.”
“I am truly humbled to accept the endorsement of Congressman DeSantis, a fellow U.S. Navy veteran and conservative,” said Renner. “If given the opportunity to serve our local community in Tallahassee, I pledge to be a principled, conservative leader dedicated to working with local businesses to bolster our economy, stimulate job growth and reduce government waste and overregulation.”
But banker Jay Fant also unveiled the support of conservatives this week. On Tuesday, Fant launched his “Tea Party Coalition,” led by prominent Jacksonville-based conservative leader Billie Tucker.
“Jay Fant is a champion of traditional American values and the Constitution, and we support his candidacy for the state House,” said Tucker on Tuesday. “Jay was with us at our first rally in Jacksonville, he helped lead our delegation to Washington, and he is the only candidate in this race who has a proven track record for standing up for conservative principles. Jay stood with us when we stood against the government overreach and we now stand with him!”
“The people of our community are tired of government run amok,” said Fant. “They want us to return to the traditional values of American exceptionalism and fiscal responsibility. This country was built on hard work and ingenuity, not on entitlements and government handouts. If we want to see growth again, we must turn back to the principles that made us great.”
For his part, Davis followed the lead of his new team at the Jacksonville Chamber and is backing Renner.
"Paul fought for America in Desert Storm and Afghanistan, and he fought crime as a state prosecutor,” said Davis on Wednesday as he endorsed Renner. “He's the proven, trusted leader we need fighting for us in Tallahassee.”
“It is an honor to receive state Rep. Daniel Davis’ support of my campaign for the seat that he has represented so well on behalf of our community,” said Renner. “Rep. Davis has been a strong conservative leader for us in Tallahassee, and, if elected, I look forward to continuing to expand upon his great work in Tallahassee. Additionally, I will work closely with Daniel in his capacity as CEO of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce to bring new business and high-paying jobs to our region.”
In recent days, both Republicans have claimed some signs of momentum. The First Coast Tea Party held a straw poll event on Tuesday which Renner won with 56 percent of the vote. But a poll of likely voters taken by St. Pete Polls for Saint PetersBlog, released at the end of last week, shows Fant with a solid lead, taking 48 percent while Renner garners 24 percent.
Whoever wins the Republican primary on Aug. 26 will face two write-in candidates in November. No Democrats are on the ballot.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.