Jacksonville mayor’s race goes national

Lenny and Molly Curry

Jacksonville businessman Lenny Curry (left) with his wife Molly. Curry is the Republican frontrunner challenging incumbent mayor Alvin Brown, a Democrat, in upcoming elections.

Jacksonville (Fla.) mayor Alvin Brown’s campaign has stepped into the national arena ahead of a race that will determine who will lead the largest city landwise in the contiguous United States.

Brown’s campaign has routinely cast the Republican frontrunner Lenny Curry as a “political party boss.”

Curry, a businessman who also has a background in accounting, did serve as chair of the Republican Party of Florida.

Brown, however,  has a very long history in the politics of his own party

Fact is Democrats have never hesitated to advance a “political party boss.” And Dems did that on a far grander scale than the state party level. Exhibits A and B: Terry McAuliffe, current governor of Virginia, and the controversial US congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. McAuliffe served as his party’s national chair; Shultz currently serves as Democrats’ national chair. Both these politicians are far more brutal in their politics than Curry.

What’s good for the donkey should also be good for the elephant. Besides, you’d expect anyone running for the office of mayor to have political acumen. Without it, you wouldn’t have a chance at the office.

In late February, former president Bill Clinton slipped into Jacksonville in an effort to get some momentum going for his longtime ally Brown. The fundraiser was closed to media and the public. Clinton’s savvy is obvious—his wife is thus far the frontrunner for her party’s nomination in the presidential race of 2016. Mr. Clinton knows having an ally in a city like Jacksonville would be a plus.

Fact is Brown can’t separate himself from his party or the politics he’s been involved in for most of his life. For one thing, he served as an aide to Bill Clinton. That’s a pretty high position in politics.

No politician can completely distance from party, as Republicans painfully learned in 2008 and 2012. Democrats successfully, having built what can only be described as an awesome messaging and media machine, ran against the Republican brand in general and former president George W. Bush in particular.

It is that party brand that at present for Democrats is most troubling. How will being part of the current party of the hard left impact a city that has pretty much held its own during troubled times? Democrats’ party is currently controlled by the far left when it comes to fiscal policy, foreign policy, border security, and national defense. Current leadership never met a tax or fee they didn’t love. Toss in the current constitutional crisis acknowledged even by scholars on the left. Troubling seems too kind a word.

How will the winner of the mayoral race deal with an ever-intrusive federal power eager to control everything from the price of electricity to purely political intrusions in public controversies that sometimes, because of federal intervention, cause even small towns to be fractured and torn apart?

Thus far, Brown hasn’t been a particularly brilliant mayor, but neither was his Republican predecessor. Brown has been criticized for his management practices, and I can understand that. On two occasions I had to deal with city agencies, and on both occasions, it was frustrating and costly. I disclose that I have also had great service from the city’s tax office when I had a problem, so there’s that.

Brown has focused, almost myopically at times, on Jacksonville’s downtown area. Personally, I love downtown, but in outlying communities where I live, I have seen our property taxes rise multiple times and atop that, have seen increases in charges for drainage and garbage collection. My city councilman, Matt Schellenberg, has done a fine job of attending to the community where I live, but that has often been a challenge when it comes to the mayor’s office and City Council.

Schellenberg, by the way, definitely has my vote. He’s done a great job and he even manages to visit neighborhoods personally.

As for downtown, nothing would please me more than to see real revitalization occur. That should start with a simple matter no politician recognizes. Our downtown area is very difficult to navigate in part because we have lousy signage. It took me years to figure out downtown after we moved here.

Those matters aside, what I am asking myself right now is how our next mayor’s actions will be affected by the pending presidential election. Regardless of rhetoric, Brown is a Democrat and sniping at Curry for his political positions makes no sense whatsoever. Hauling in Clinton made it obvious the race has taken on national implications.

In a recent poll conducted by the University of North Florida, Brown was polling at 37 percent. Curry polled at 25 percent, but within his party he has a challenger who is polling at 11 percent. That challenger, by the way, won’t rule out more property tax increases on top of property tax increases that have already been levied—a deal breaker for me as a taxpayer. If you add the two Republicans’ polling data together you get 36 percent, indicating a de facto tie between Brown and Curry because it is highly doubtful those Republicans in Curry’s challenger’s camp will mark the bubble for a Democrat in these divisive times.

Curry is energetic, and unlike some of his fellow Republicans, he resonates with youth. Curry also has a lot of skills that would make him a good mayor. For starters, somebody needs to go over the city’s budget line item by line item.

Brown has a record to run on, having served one term.

The good news for the winner is that we have a governor, Rick Scott, who knows how to lay out a welcome mat for employers. But we need to see more jobs in Jacksonville for all the people and we need to view our city in a more expansive way.

Curry’s background in accounting would be a plus when it comes to dealing with a pension crisis our city officials have failed to resolve.

I’ve met Curry on a professional basis at political events and he’s a down to earth sort of fellow. So is Brown. But my belief is that if you’re not satisfied with the way things are going, you toss the incumbent and give the new candidate a shot at it. Whether others will view the race that way is unknown, but the polls suggest a close race and, more importantly, a race that has moved into the national arena.

(Analysis by Kay B. Day/March 6, 2015)

Featured Image: Curry campaign


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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.

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