Soderberg, UNF distinguished professor, kicks off state Senate campaign

Bonnie Mulqueen

Nancy Soderberg, a UNF distinguished professor, hosted her first campaign meeting for Florida State Senate District 4 at her home in Jacksonville Beach June 23.

Soderberg, who’s running in a primarily Republican district, said Northeast Florida is not used to voting for Democrats, and she intends to change that.

“We need to promote her — that’s our golden ticket to putting UNF on the map. It’s not a high-class gym, it’s teachers like Nancy,” said Democrat Valerie Ceballos, a UNF alumni and former student of Soderberg’s, who graduated in spring 2012 in political science and international studies.

Soderberg is giving UNF a chance to make Jacksonville great, Ceballos said. Soderberg wants to make sure the government takes care of students so they stay in Jacksonville after they graduate, Ceballos said.

In the current job climate, students may be apt to leave Jacksonville because of the lack of jobs. Scott Machaby, a UNF political science senior, said Soderberg’s nonprofit experience and negotiations with the IRA will help her sway the Republican vote. Most people in Florida’s district are Republican, and she’s going to have to overcome that, Machaby said.

The biggest obstacle for Soderberg’s campaign is the Republican district, said Brett Waite, a UNF political science alumni and Soderberg’s campaign coordinator. A lot of Soderberg’s volunteers are Republican, and Waite said that shows that Soderberg is for Republicans and Independents, too — not just Democrats. She is accepting and willing to listen to all sides of any argument, Waite said.

Voters should really open their minds to what Soderberg stands for and not focus on their political parties, said Ann Tarleton, a Republican and Soderberg’s personal assistant. And although different political affiliations are involved, Machaby said it’s not about being a Republican or Democrat, it’s about doing the right thing for Jacksonville. Tarleton said Soderberg will be a great asset to Florida because she’s not power hungry, and she really cares about people. She said Soderberg is one of the most caring individuals she has even known.

Trey Marks, a UNF political science and psychology senior, said he’s an Independent, but he’s voting for the person — not the party — because he knows Soderberg can get the job done. Marks, who is also Soderberg’s teaching assistant and campaign volunteer, said Soderberg remains calm, even when it comes down to the wire. He said that is a very good quality to have as a politician.

Mejgan Zia, a UNF public relations alumni and former student of Soderberg’s, said the most important thing about Soderberg is that she chose to teach at UNF, a public university. Zia said Soderberg had opportunities to teach at Ivy League schools, like Princeton and Harvard. Zia is representing the immigrant and ethnic population for Soderberg’s campaign.

“It’s really important that someone represent the immigrant population because they don’t feel involved with the political process,” Zia said. “A lot of them don’t know how to get involved, and this is a good opportunity to introduce to the immigrant community a representative who will give them a voice that they don’t have.”

The Democratic Party of Florida called Soderberg June 4 and asked if she would be interested in running for the party. Soderberg said she had three days to think about it before she decided that running for state Senate would be a great way to make herself known to Florida and to challenge the way Tallahassee handles policies. Soderberg said she will bring a fresh breath of air, new leadership, jobs, growth and education to Northeast Florida.

“I don’t think our current representatives are doing that,” she said. “I don’t think our governor is doing that.”

Soderberg said she plans on going to Nassau County and parts of Duval County to listen and talk to people about the issues they care about.

“Jacksonville should be the gateway to Florida and to the world,” Soderberg said. “I think we need a bit of a broader vision to take this whole region to the next level.”

Before joining the UNF faculty, Soderberg served as President Bill Clinton’s third-ranking official on the National Security Council and was key adviser to negotiating the cease-fire peace process in Northern Ireland with the Irish Republican Army.

To learn more about Nancy Soderberg, read the profile story on her.