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Gretna Commissioner Clarence Jackson files for 2016 House run in HD 8

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Gretna City Commissioner Clarence Jackson announced on Thursday — via a theatrical campaign ad —  he will jump into a now four-way race for an open seat in HD 8.

The all-Democratic field seeks to succeed term-limited state Rep. Alan Williams, which takes in all of Gadsden County – the state’s only majority-minority county –  and the southern half of Tallahassee, including the state Capitol.

“Life has prepared me for this moment,” Jackson says in the ad, which portrays a faux press gaggle outside the Old Capitol Building.

“I know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck. I know what it’s like to want a job, but can’t find a job. I know what it’s like to try to raise children in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

“Politics may be tough, but when you’ve had to fight through some difficult times in your own life, it prepares you to take on the challenges that people just like you are facing every day.”

Jackson also cites his executive experience as former mayor of Gretna, a Gadsden city of around 2,000. The city has a rolling mayoral system whereby commissioners take turns in the executive role.

Local nonprofit owner and Democratic operative Ramon Alexander is currently the frontrunner by a good distance. Unlike Jackson, Alexander is well-known in the Tallahassee half of the district. Alexander has also raised $78,568, by far the most of any candidate so far and slightly more than Williams had on hand when he first sought the seat in 2008.

State employee Dianne Williams-Cox –– who took 32 percent of the vote against Williams in a testy primary last August — and former aide to the Tallahassee mayor’s office Brad Johnson are also vying for the Democratic nomination.

HD 8 is one of the most liberal districts in the state. President Barack Obama took 77 percent of the vote there against Republican Mitt Romney in his 2012 re-election.

The outgoing Williams has said he will remain neutral in the race to replace him — for now, anyway.

“I’m excited we have a competitive field,” said Williams, who has built an image as an accessible and energetic presence in District 8.

“I hope whoever is elected will continue our work to champion state workers, our universities and community colleges as well as K-12 education, while being good stewards to our pristine environment that we treasure in North Florida.”

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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