Tuesday was election day in Duval County for mayor, sheriff and several city council seats. This was actually the second election in the process. I had been part of the Jacksonville Daily Record team when we covered the first election. In that one, I was assigned to get photos of two of the mayoral candidates and two of the candidates for sheriff, plus anyone else I might find along the way. Luckily the mayor hopefuls had their watch parties down the street from one another, so I spent a good part of the evening running between the two locations in the rain to see if I could get anything interesting. Both were successful in making it to the run-off election, so I captured their moments of victory. The one running for sheriff made it, so I headed across the river to grab a few photos of him. The other was out of contention early and his people headed home early so there was no point in tying to get some images there.
And this is what appeared in the paper the next day.....
Marilyn, the editor of the JDR asked me then to keep the date of the next election open so that we could do it all over again. Of course I told her I was in.
So, yesterday, I was ready. I started my day off casting my own ballot. Like only about 36% of eligible voters in the county. As I see it, you can't bitch about the election or politicians or the government if you don't do your part in the electoral process. So many of these races ended up being so tight that if just another ten percent of voters came out, several of them could have gone in the opposite direction. Imagine what would happen if twice as many people actually voted. We could have a completely different situation in this county and in this country. Something to think about, eh?
Marilyn had told me that she was trying to get permission to spend the day following the mayoral candidates on election day to document what they did and see what the process was like on the last day of the campaign. I think it would have been very interesting. I waited for the call, but it never came. They decided that it wouldn't be fair to the other news outlets to grant us that access. I disagree, but what can you do.
Instead, we all got together in the office a little after six and we talked about our assignments.....and had Papa Johns. You can't cover an election without pizza; it's some kind of unwritten rule. I was assigned to get photos of Lenny Curry (mayor), Ken Jefferson (sheriff) and council hopefuls George Spencer, Lisa King and Scott Wilson. Once the polls closed (and I'd had my fill of pizza), I headed out.
My first stop was George Spencer's headquarters in Springfield. There were a few people there when I arrived, but more kept coming. The only one not there was the candidate. I was told he'd be 10-15 minutes, so I waited and took a few pictures. Form what they were showing on TV, the race was neck and neck would probably come down to the wire. Then I heard that Spencer would be just another 10-15 minutes. I told them that I had other places to be and I'd try to stop back later.
Next, I headed up Main Street to Junior's Famous Sandwiches where Lisa King was holding her watch party. When I got there, a lot of people were gathered in the parking lot and they seemed to be having a party. As I walked up with my camera gear on, Ms. King called out good-naturedly to me that she didn't want to talk to me. I said I didn't care; I was only there to get pictures. I had no idea that she hadn't done well in the voting. But she and her people were surprisingly upbeat. She vowed that she would run for office again, but next time it would be for something county-wide. For them, tonight was about celebrating with family and supporters on a well fought campaign.
After this, I was off to Scott Wilson's gathering at the Elks Lodge on West Road off Beach Boulevard. This council race was over pretty much after the polls closed, with Wilson getting over sixty percent of the votes. I found him on the phone getting a congratulatory call from a friend. Then he sat down and chatted with some of his remaining supporters. A lot of his folks had already gone after the victory had been assured. He quipped that the campaigning had been long and hard, and he had the worn-out shoes to prove it. But he said that the real work is yet to come and he was anxious to get started.
I had to get to the Hyatt downtown to see if I could get some shots of Ken Jefferson and then on to the Curry soiree. But first I thought I'd swing back by the Spencer headquarters. When I got there, only a few people remained. And I didn't see the candidate. What I learned later was that the election didn't go their way. So, I took off for the Hyatt.
I entered the hotel and followed the signs for the Jefferson party. By the time I got there, it was a little before 9 and he had already conceded the race to his opponent, Mike Williams. And his area of the third floor was pretty much a ghost town at this point. I didn't think anyone would be wanting to be photographed.
I walked into Lenny Curry's party and the mood was the exact opposite. There were a lot of smiles and laughing, including the representatives of the state Republican party in the corner. The campaign had pulled it off and this candidate that had never run for anything had beaten the incumbent mayor. I got my gear together and made my way to the front of the stage. I made sure all my settings were right and just waited. I could see that I would have a great view of Curry as he entered the room. After some words by his father and his wife, Curry came out. What I couldn't anticipate was this 80 year old woman would get in front of me and hold up a sign blocking my perfect shot. Oh well. I adjusted and started getting my shots. These are some of my favorites.
Then it was back to the Daily Record to sort through my photos and compare notes with the reporters and editor. And have a little more pizza.
And this is what it looked like when the paper came out this morning....
It was a challenging evening and a lot of fun. And I look forward to doing it many more times in the future.
So, that was how I spent my election day. How did you spend yours?