Joe Biden won Duval, but Duval isn't a blue county
Just because Duval is the brightest spot for Florida Democrats doesn't mean they should take a victory lap here.
I’ve already written some of the obvious political analyses of the election results. Joe Biden won Duval County, the first Democrat to do so since Jimmy Carter in 1976. Yet every Democrat in a competitive down-ballot race lost. Duval is now a purple county, not a blue one.
Joe Biden won Duval by less than four percentage points, which doesn’t mean the county is now permanently Democratic but that both parties are able to win here. Republicans would be foolish to give up on Duval, and Democrats would be foolish to assume they can easily replicate 2020’s result.
It’s important to see how Biden’s win compares to Hillary Clinton’s Duval loss in 2016 and Andrew Gillum’s Duval win in 2018.
Biden did worse in Black neighborhoods and Democratic strongholds on the Northside, but he did better in white neighborhoods and Republican areas on the Southside.
Biden’s margin shrank in 34 out of 42 Black-majority precincts, while it grew in 123 out of 131 white-majority precincts.
Jacksonville became less politically segregated than it has been in the past, but that also means voters’ loyalties have grown weaker on both sides. Traditional Democratic voters were less likely to vote Democratic, and traditional Republican voters were less likely to vote Republican.
Going into redistricting, that means fair maps could create more competitive races for City Council or the State House, but it also means that politicians might become more surgical in their drawing of the maps to ensure polarized races. The state constitution bans gerrymandering for legislative seats but not for City Council seats.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won just five out of 14 City Council seats, even as she ran nearly even with Trump. In 2018, Andrew Gillum, who did even better than Biden in Duval, won six seats. In 2020, Biden, whose support was more spread out, won seven out of 14 seats.
One of the biggest failures for local Democrats — second, perhaps, to the failure to run a candidate against Republican Mayor Lenny Curry — was the party’s inability to attract any candidate to run for District 11, that newly blue district near Baymeadows in the southernmost part of the city. It’s the fastest-growing district, with more than one in seven registered voters identifying as Asian or Hispanic. It’s also never had a competitive election with City Councilman Danny Becton running unopposed twice for the district.
We saw this down-ballot, particularly in the county clerk’s race where Republican Jody Phillips ran ahead of Donald Trump’s numbers as voters split their ticket.
Jacksonville is on the verge of becoming a minority-majority city, and the suburban neighborhoods in the city are diversifying quickly with new Asian and Hispanic residents. Those tasked with drawing political maps can use the 2020 results and the city’s racial data to weaken the voting power of Jacksonville residents.
A note on Jacksonville’s violent weekend
This weekend, two men died to gun violence in Jacksonville. One man was shot on the road outside my house, just hours before I rode the same area on a bicycle with my son.
Jacksonville has now had 173 homicides this year, more than any year since The Florida Times-Union started tracking in 2006, and only three away from the 1990 record of 176 reported by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
One note about that record: There were likely more homicides in 1990 because the Sheriff’s Office’s reported homicides are consistently lower than the violent killings the Times-Union reports. See the chart below:
We can use a mathematical formula to estimate there were actually 219 homicides in 1990, but even with that formula, this year outpaces 1991 and every year after that.
There have been only two weeks this year without a killing: the first week in July and the first week in October. And as I said last time, December is usually the most violent month of the year, so it’s possible things can continue getting worse. May God have mercy on our city.
Start your week off…
with this look at a statewide grand jury report lambasting the Duval County Public Schools police from Emily Bloch. Is the report calling for more transparency, or is it actually calling for a tougher school-to-prison pipeline, courtesy of the school police?
I’m continuing to meet with potential fiscal sponsors, and I’m hoping to have a decision made before Christmas so we can start accepting tax-deductible donations.
As I said last week, I’m weighing starting as a fiscally sponsored project of another nonprofit, which would give the project more independence and the option of growing into its own 501c3, or potentially merging with an existing nonprofit where that nonprofit would have complete ownership of the Tributary, but it would also allow us to worry less about the business side of things and get to the journalism more quickly.
In the meantime, your Substack subscriptions have been critical as I’ve started purchasing public records and paying for other reporting expenses.
If you have any thoughts on stories or issues you’d like me to cover, feel free to let me know!
Next week, I’ll have a look at gerrymandering and redistricting in Duval.
I’m also hoping The Times-Union will publish in the coming days an interactive map I produced before I left the newspaper.