Jacksonville – When Equality Florida’s Action PAC released its list of recommendations on candidates running for office in Jacksonville there was one noticeable exception—openly gay candidate James Eddy.

A striking omission that Eddy, who is running for the District 7 Council seat, considers a “diss” after helping Equality Florida with its events and initiatives. His position is clear.

“They should be backing gay candidates. Plain and simple,” he said. “Not all GLBT candidates are going to win, but if we don’t have the support of our organizations how do we have a chance to even win?”

Equality Florida has its own views on the matter.

“We absolutely support openly LGBT candidates running for office,” said Mallory Garner-Wells, the organization’s public policy director.

So why didn’t Eddy get the nod?

“It’s really important for us to be subjective,” Garner-Wells said. “Under our criteria Eddy did not meet the standards for running a competitive race.”

Highlighted candidates must have made public statements about supporting the expansion of the city’s human rights ordinance (HRO) to include members of the LGBT community. Eddy has.

Additionally, candidates must also have completed Equality Florida’s candidate questionnaire (which Eddy did) and have raised at least one-third of the amount of their highest raising competitor (which he did not) so as to be competitive in their race.

The Action PAC has instead highlighted Marc McCullough in District 7. It’s an important distinction, as Garner-Wells explains the list is “not an endorsement”.

A surprise move all the same, especially given that McCullough has a criminal record that includes pleading guilty to motor vehicle theft, selling cocaine to an undercover detective and being a felon in possession of a firearm. There are also a slew of other charges he pleaded no contest to and a probation violation.
Eddy says that’s irrelevant.

“Marc has served his time,” Eddy said. “He’s given back to the community. So I’m not going to begrudge him on that.”

But he is taking McCullough to task over what he considers a lack of commitment to the LGBT community.

“Marc hasn’t shown that he’s for the GLBT community. Period,” Eddy said. “He filled out a questionnaire.”

And that alone offers no guarantees, as was seen with District 7 incumbent Johnny Gaffney’s actions in 2012. Gaffney, who scored 100 percent on the questionnaire, ended up voting against expanding the HRO. His swing vote was decisive in the bill’s defeat.

As a result, Jacksonville remains one of the only major U.S cities that hasn’t added “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression” to its list of protected classes. Gaffney is not running for re-election.

Garner-Wells points out that the Gaffney case is not typical.

“We work really hard to ensure people stick to their commitment,” she said.

For Eddy, there has been some good in all of this.

“The community has come out even more in support since Equality Florida has posted this,” he says.

According to him, donation amounts have increased and several of those who have already donated are contributing more. He also says that some people have told him they’ve stopped donating to Equality Florida in light of the decision.

“I’m not telling anyone to do that because Equality Florida is a good organization. It’s their PAC group,” he clarified. “The PAC group needs to revaluate not supporting a GLBT candidate even if in their heads they’re not the most viable person when it comes to money.”

Despite everything, Eddy believes he’s a top contender in the race. He’ll find out how he really ranks on March 24. He’ll need more than 50 percent of total votes to win, or at least a top two finish to move on to the May 19 general election, as per the rules under Jacksonville’s unitary voting system.

His advice for voters?

“Do your homework,” he said. “And vote.”

From our media partner Watermark