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Open seat race in state Rep. Alan Williams’ HD 8 heating up early

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The race to succeed term-limited state Rep. Alan Williams in House District 8 — which takes in part of Tallahassee, including the state Capitol — has attracted another Democratic hopeful in Clarence Jackson, former mayor of the Gadsden city of Gretna.

Jackson, who mounted a brief run in 2014 when it appeared Williams would step away from the Legislature to pursue a seat on the Tallahassee City Commission, told WCTV he plans to file in July.

Jackson gave way in deference to the incumbent last year by dropping out when Williams firmed up his plans to stay in the statehouse.

Jackson joins local Democratic operative and former student body president at Florida A&M University Ramon Alexander as well as Brad Johnson, who like both Williams and Alexander served as an aide to Tallahassee Mayor John Marks. Both men filed for the seat on October 1, 2013, almost three years ahead of the August 30 primary next year.

Alexander has so far raised a $57,000 war chest and says he figures to report considerably more after this month’s campaign finance reporting period expires. For now anyway, he looks to be the clear frontrunner.

Johnson, for his part, has raised a little over $9,000.

Williams says he is staying neutral for the time being, but is glad the deeply Democratic seat, which includes all of Gadsden County and much of western Leon, is getting as much attention as it usually does

“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.”

Though Alexander declined to discuss the specifics of the field in HD 8 citing a desire to focus inward as June fundraising comes to a close, he expressed the following in a statement Thursday.

“The people of District 8 deserve the opportunity to choose between candidates of varying ideas and ideals,” said Alexander.

“I have spent the last two years talking to voters in the district about my candidacy and the need for strong representation in the Florida House. My wife and I have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement of my candidacy,” continued Alexander, who founded and operates Distinguished Young Gentlemen, a local nonprofit that serves underprivileged youth.

The status of a possible run by Gadsden-based Dianne Williams-Cox — who ran an insurgent campaign against Williams tinged with personal antipathy — is still unknown.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com 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 ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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