If each post or “like” on Facebook translated to exactly one ballot cast in his favor, Jacksonville mayoral challenger and professional restauranteur Rob Gowin would already have well over 300 votes in the can.
The popular owner of Sadler's Kitchen, a newly-proclaimed politician, announced his candidacy Thursday, prompting an explosive response on Facebook — nearly all of them affirming his decision to run.
“I'm going to give you both, a 'heck yeah' and an 'amen,'” gushed FB friend Lindsay Morris. “Congrats, Rob. You've got my vote!”
Agreed Danny Foreman: “If you need help campaigning, let me know!”
Enthused Flossie Smith Barker: “Woo hoo!”
Gowin, who posted on Facebook Friday that a family member was in the hospital, was not immediately available Friday to discuss his election platform.
But through social media, he has already made some things clear — politically speaking: Gowin is looking to build up the city from his perspective. Not tear it down.
“Please feel free to throw out ideas and suggestions — no whining though,” the candidate said, tongue-in-cheek, on the popular social media site. “Goals that can be accomplished to make the place better!”
In the election, Gowin, 44, will face incumbent Mayor Kenneth Melvin, 72, who has already announced his intention to seek a second term. Melvin has stated his candidacy is based on his vote of confidence in the way Jacksonville officials currently are managing city affairs.
The last contested race for mayor was the previous mayoral election — in which Melvin faced off against opponent Jeff Smith, winning by a slim, 31-vote margin in May 2011.
District 1 Councilman Hubert Robinson and District 3 Councilman Bill McDonald are also seeking reelection and, as of Friday, had no opponents in their respective elections.
On the Jacksonville Educational Foundation website, Gowin's family is mentioned as having a long history in the area — especially with the historic Sadler's restaurant.
“Third generation Rob Gowin resurrected the historic restaurant in 1995, now known as the city’s popular 'Sadler’s Kitchen & Catering,'” the site states. “A JHS Class of 1986 graduate, Rob constantly supports and contributes to numerous district-wide functions. He and Sadler’s Kitchen are proud advocates of making Jacksonville and JISD a great place to live.”
Even the famously-confident Gowin seemed a little humbled this week by the enthusiastic reaction to his announcement he is running for office.
“Wow,” the candidate said in an FB post. “Thank you all for the 'likes' and kind words! Let's 'Get Gowin for Jacksonville' folks!!!”
Facebook friend Lu Bearden Wegmet gave her official stamp of approval for Gowin's political slogan.
“I see that over 200 people 'like' this,” she said in an Facebook post Thursday. “Now to get them (that are eligible) to vote!”