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Politics

Tommy Hazouri Looks to Extend his Time in Jacksonville Politics

June 2, 2018 - 6:00am

Jacksonville hasn’t seen the last of Tommy Hazouri as he hopes to extend his lengthy political career. 

More than four decades after he was elected to the Florida House and more than a quarter of a century after he was thrown out of the mayor’s office after one term in Jacksonville, Hazouri continues to be a political force on the First Coast and he is looking to keep his time in office going. On Friday, Florida Politics reported that Hazouri has filed to run for a second term on the Jacksonville City Council and, so far, is unopposed. That will probably change but, as was seen in his win in 2015, Hazouri remains popular with the voters. He should be solid favorite come 2019 when he is up for a second term. 

Despite now being in his mid 70s and a prominent Democrat in a pretty Republican city, Hazouri is still a factor in Jacksonville politics. That was seen last year as Hazouri and follow City Councilman John Crescimbeni helped kill an effort to end the current limit of two terms for city officials. For that, Hazouri received the praise of U.S. Term Limits. 

“It was obvious all along what this was about: politicians defying the voters in order to increase their own power,” said Florida-based Nick Tomboulides, the executive director of U.S. Term Limits, back in August. “Tommy Hazouri did the city a great service by exposing the self-serving nature of this bill.”

That’s not the only issue Hazouri has been focused on. The former mayor also has been pushing the city government to open the books as JaxPort plans to dredge the St. Johns River. Also in recent years, Hazouri spearheaded adding a Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) in Jacksonville which passed last year.  

Hazouri’s prominent role on the Jacksonville City Council is just the latest act in his more than 40 years on the political stage. Elected to the Legislature in 1974, Hazouri rose to lead the Education, K-12 Committee before being elected mayor in 1987, beating John Lewis in a nasty primary. Hazouri scored some wins during his time in mayor--including abolishing tolls in favor of raising the sales tax by half a percent--but fellow Democrat Ed Austin defeated him in 1991. While Austin presided over Jacksonville when it was awarded an expansion team by the NFL, Hazouri set the stage for it though his efforts to woo the Houston Oilers over to the First Coast didn't pan out. 

While he started out leading the polls in 1995 after Austin said he would not run for a second term, Hazouri faded and came in distant third behind former Mayor Jake Godbold and Republican John Delaney in the first round of the election. Despite Godbold being a fellow Democrat, Hazouri threw his support behind Delaney who won the runoff. When Delaney faced term limits in 2003, Hazouri ran again but bowed out when then Duval County Sheriff Nat Glover jumped in. 

Instead of fading away after three unsuccessful mayoral bids, Hazouri went back to the basics. In 2004, he ran for and won a seat on the Duval County School Board where he rose up the ranks. After winning a second term in 2008, Hazouri became chairman. In 2015, Hazouri beat Republican Jeff Youngblood to win a seat on the city council and he continues to be active in politics, joining his old rival Godbold for example in helping Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial bid. 

Hazouri turns 74 in October and it’s hard to imagine he will take another shot at higher office though he could angle to move up the leadership ladder on the City Council. He was in the mix when the council chose a vice president last month but he dropped out  and proved a king maker, helping Scott Wilson win the spot on a 10-9 vote. Another leadership bid is not out of the question by any means. In the meantime, Hazouri will continue to make noise on the City Council.  One of the longest and most uneven careers in Jacksonville politics shows no signs of ending just yet. 

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