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The battle to find 'the true Democrat' in District 7

The race for District 7 in Jacksonville's City Council has become incredibly contentious.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Early voting in the city-wide March elections has begun and one of the most contentious races on the ballot has become the Jacksonville City Council District 7 seat.

There are five candidates vying for the City Council District 7 seat but most of the vitriol surrounds two candidates: Navy veteran and Vystar executive Jimmy Peluso versus attorney and Folio publisher John Phillips.

This is a race that First Coast News political analysts AG Gancarski of FloridaPolitics.com and Andrew Pantazi of The Tributary are following closely.

"It's a really interesting race in that you've got John Phillips, who's a master at marketing," said Pantazi. "He's really pitched himself as the anti-Lenny Curry candidate, the anti-establishment candidate. And he also endorsed Curry in 2015."

The district leans Democrat, a party Phillips joined in 2020 after years as a registered Republican.

"He's pitching himself as the true Democrat in the race and ironically you have Jimmy Peluso who is the former chair of the young Democrats," said Pantazi.

"You have a lot of white Democrats in that district as Andrew mentioned," said Gancarski, "and 2 big spending ones."

Campaign finance records show Peluso has raised more than $140,000 for this election, Phillips has raised even more.

"Phillips, he's had a lot of high profile cases and put a lot of money into his own race, at least $160,000, which is the vast majority of what he's raised at this point," said Gancarski.

A recent district voter forum showcased the hostility between the candidates.

"Whatever Jimmy Peluso said John Phillips was going to say the opposite," said Pantazi, "Jimmy Peluso said we need to focus on curbs and potholes in these neighborhoods and John Phillips was like, we need to focus on curbing violence."

"Really, the drama has been Peluso and Phillips," said Gancarski, "it's been nasty and it'll stay that way to the end."

The other candidates are: Republican Joe Hogan, owner of a construction company and son of former mayoral candidate Mike Hogan; Democrat Kim Pryor, an IT expert and historic preservation advocate; and Parrish King, who has No Party Affiliation, but owns a painting business and is open about his recovery from drug addiction.

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