While the straw poll results at the recent right-of-center hobnob in Jacksonville suggest there might be some life in the Bill Bishop campaign, most observers think the mayoral race is going to come down to Alvin and Lenny. After all, they've got the money, the name recognition and the institutional support. In any election, let
alone a low-turnout, off-year election, that stuff matters.
One school of thought is that Curry, the former state Republican Party chair, could benefit from running to Mayor Brown's left on the human rights ordinance and related issues, essentially running through the hole John Delaney cleared for him when the legislation was on the table. Don't hold your breath.
While it would be refreshing for Curry to talk real on the HRO, there are political reasons that can't happen. One reason in particular: If he does, Republican Mike Hogan, who lost a mayoral bid in 2011, might see an opening and jump in.
It's an open secret among developers and politicos alike that Hogan has been reaching out to his Westside money marks, testing the waters to see if they'd fund him again. Sources with direct knowledge maintain that Hogan uses Curry's HRO ambivalence to paint the former chair of the Florida Republican Party as soft on conservative issues.
And then there were the revelations in the Times-Union last week that a memo went out to local GOP donors from a consultant stating that Hogan, along with City Councilman Bill Gulliford (who has ruled out a mayoral bid), would have the best shot at dethroning Brown.
The reality is, Hogan had his chance four years ago. His election seemed inevitable. Then he destroyed himself.
His past boosters, a nexus of political support reminiscent of the good-ol'-boy network Jake Godbold tapped into decades before, believe Mike blew it. Take this debacle: joking during a campaign stop about how bombing an abortion clinic "may cross my mind," then justifying it with "I'm not going to be politically correct. That was a joke. This was an audience for this. This is a Catholic church."
Nice way to choke a winnable election in Jacksonville. Pander to social conservatives, and throw the papists under the bus in the bargain. After that mess, Brown looked pretty damn good.
When I reached out to Hogan for comment on his intentions, he dodged the question, saying his current "quasi-judicial position" with the Florida Public Employees Relations Commission (for which he makes a cool $95,000 for God knows what) made it "inappropriate/unlawful to comment on political issues." He didn't want to talk about Lenny Curry at all, tellingly.
This was a rare moment of silence for the once-and-(perhaps)-future candidate. Hogan showed more self-discipline in his non-response than he did back in 2007, when he spoke out for leniency for a youth pastor friend of his, the ironically named Rev. Richard Sweat, who got five years in prison for having child porn on his computer. Of course, argued the defense, the illicit images were a conspiracy against Rev. Sweat, possibly planted by his wife or her father in a rep-killing frame-up as their marriage unraveled. The same defense attempted to partially exonerate the good reverend by saying the pictures were old, so Sweat was somehow in the clear, because he was but a passive agent of the wanton victimization of helpless youth. Hogan stood by his defense of Sweat in 2011, yet another career-killer of a campaign gaffe.
This mayoral election augurs — no matter who wins — a decisive break from the politics and the Jacksonville of the past. If Brown is the victor, he might govern less cautiously. Same goes for Curry, who wants to be the new John Delaney. Hogan, by comparison, is an atavistic throwback.
Someone like Hogan gets one shot — he took it four years ago. All he can do now is sabotage Lenny Curry by forcing him to run the "who's more conservative?" identikit Republican campaign. The person who'd benefit most from Hogan jumping in? The same person who benefitted four years ago: Alvin Brown, who could bob and weave his way toward an anti-climactic confrontation with a damaged-goods candidate.