Johnny Gaffney Blocks Reggie Fullwood's Easy Path Back to Tallahassee

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: September 2, 2014 3:55 AM
Johnny Gaffney and Reggie Fullwood

Johnny Gaffney and Reggie Fullwood

Reggie Fullwood could well pay the price for a notary’s mistake as he ponders his political future. 

First elected to the Florida House in 2010, Fullwood was the only candidate running for his secure Democratic seat in Jacksonville. But Fullwood was tripped up after a a notary overlooked a box to check off regarding his financial disclosure. Fullwood tried to get back on the ballot but a judge ruled against him, meaning there will be a special election after the general election in November to fill the open House seat.

Fullwood can expect a fight as he looks ahead to getting back to Tallahassee. Fellow Jacksonville Democrat Johnny Gaffney filed to run back in early July and raised almost $16,750 during that month.

Gaffney is one of the leading Democrats in the city. Back in the early 1980s, Gaffney played for the Florida Gator football team and, before he suffered a devastating injury, he was headed to the NFL. Gaffney bounced back strongly after the end of his football career. He worked for Barnett Bank and went to grad school, eventually obtaining a doctorate in education. Gaffney also found success in politics, winning a city council seat back in 2007 and keeping it in 2011 with more than 70 percent of the vote.

But, despite his botched effort to get on the ballot, Fullwood is no lightweight. Only 39, Fullwood burst onto the political scene in 1999 when he was the youngest member ever elected to the Jacksonville City Council. Facing term limits, Fullwood rolled the dice and came up short in 2006 when he offered a primary challenge against Audrey Gibson who was then in the Florida House. Despite losing, Fullwood did surprisingly well, taking 43 percent against a pretty well-established incumbent. When Gibson faced term limits in 2010, Fullwood ran again and this time claimed the seat.

Things appeared to be going Fullwood’s way until the ballot snafu. Now he is guaranteed a much more challenging path to the House. Gaffney has said he will run for the seat, whether in 2016 or in a special election in early 2015. Both Democrats have strong ties to the community and are well-established party leaders. No matter when it is set, this is going to be a competitive primary.

Longtime Republican leader Lawrence Jefferson who is with the Duval County sheriff’s office is hoping to take advantage of a competitive Democratic primary. Jefferson has served as the Duval County GOP’s treasurer and is one of the leading black Republicans in Jacksonville. But he hasn’t had much luck when he turned his attention to higher office, including running for a Florida House seat back in 1999 when he got crushed by Denise Lee.

It’s hard to imagine Jefferson being a major factor here -- but then it was hard to imagine Fullwood failing to make the ballot in what should have been a slam dunk re-election effort. Now, at the very least, Fullwood has to go up against Gaffney in what will be a match-up of two prominent Democrats.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

Comments (2)

Randy Smith
9:47PM SEP 13TH 2014
Hi guys,
Randy Smith chiming in. I ran for this seat against
Fullwood in the 2010. Not only did he fail to move into
the district before election day he was stupid enough to
vote in his home district. That should've been an automatic
win for me. My mistake was trusting the Republican party
to help with the contesting of the election. I got a knife
shoved in my back. They're all in bed together. This time
around apparently the powers that be are sick of Reggie's
Mark Keene
10:46PM SEP 2ND 2014
It's actually his mistake. He is responsible for submitting properly executed paperwork.

As detailed in a Jacksonville.com article dated July 29th, Representative Fullwood was disqualified from the upcoming election cycle because he failed to submit properly executed paperwork to the state election office before the qualifying period expired.

Initially, he demonstrated good character by taking responsibility for his actions, chalking it up to a learning experience and committing to move forward with a special election so the voters can have their voice heard.

Roughly a month later on July 29th, he quietly went to court to try and retain his seat without the due process of an election. Representative Fullwood states that there is no need for a special election that would cost the election office an additional $225,000.

Another perspective on the situation is that Representative Fullwood’s negligence simply cost the state another $225,000.

Does House District 13 need a representative who cannot fill out simple paperwork in a timely manner? Further stupidity is that he submitted incorrect paperwork a second time trying to fix the first erroneous submission.

Representative Fullwood – Act like an adult and take responsibility for
your actions.

It’s worth noting I am also a registered Democrat.

Mark Keene

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