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March Madness

Not a good year for mayoral also-rans


The 2019 Jacksonville mayoral election  is less than two months away, and given that the field is Anna Brosche, Lenny Curry and an assortment of minor candidates, I’m expecting it to be done in March.

One of two things will happen. Either Curry’s team continues to execute its plan and Brosche is dispatched like Bill Bishop four years ago, or Brosche is successful in convincing voters that, while she voted for 98.4 percent of whatever the mayor wanted, he can’t be trusted.

Brosche’s campaign thus far has hit talking points, including the Curry administration’s role/interest in exploring JEA privatization/sale, and the “Curry crime wave” (the semi-daily eruptions of gunplay on Jacksonville streets). If you were spending/raising more than seven figures to go after a mayor in your own party, you’d definitely want to hit points that speak to a “lack of transparency” in City Hall.

Brosche’s strategy has been smart in recent months, in the sense that she has seen the narrative linchpin of her challenge to Curry develop. She has a cadre of loyal supporters, including Democrats who have no particular heartburn whatsoever in crossing party lines and supporting what one might call a “commonsense conservative.”

Sure, it’s a long way from Andrew Gillum defending Medicare for All and the Dream Defenders; after all, as recently as last spring, Brosche could be seen tweeting from an American Enterprise Institute conference. But these are special circumstances. Democrats and some Republicans (especially women voters) see Brosche as the best chance to take down the ol’ party boss.

There is, we understand, potential for at least one televised debate with the candidates. If 2015 is any guide, it will be interesting to see who pushes to include candidates like Omega Allen (Curry got her on the stage four years ago) and Jimmy Hill (an Atlantic Beach pol running to send a message to City Hall after it mucked up his yearly boat show). With respect to those candidates and their candidacies, it will be a distraction if the two viable candidates aren’t given a meaningful forum unencumbered by people who aren’t going to win.

The Brosche/Curry schism is quite personal. They haven’t gotten along since early in her council presidency, though both tried for a while. The personal attacks will definitely be the hot quotes of the debate, but here’s another consideration: Brosche’s run is effectively as the agent of a referendum question.

Is Lenny Curry getting it done? Or not getting it done?

Brosche will have to make the case that, despite best efforts, Curry isn’t. And she’s going to have to make that case with a lot of interested parties/partners/allies/friends a) endorsing Curry and b) shredding Brosche, as Sheriff Mike Williams and five councilmembers have already done.

The corollary case she may make is that even if there is progress in certain areas, it’s come at the price of tone and decorum, and amid an atmosphere of bullying/intimidation. This is a dangerous posture to strike, and I’m surprised that pols take the bait of the Curry machine’s provocational, Sunday-punch gamesmanship. It’s like complaining when the heel take liberties in a rasslin’ match.

Brosche and Garrett Dennis both claimed Curry was sitting in front of the Supervisor of Elections office watching people go in as qualifying closed. Brosche mentioned it in a radio hit last week. The logistics of Curry posting up out there aside, it’s clearly an intimidation tactic, and the best way to deal with that is not to even acknowledge it.

The same would have been true when Dennis mentioned his concealed weapons permit last year as a response to “bullying” in the building. While it is possible that people could rally behind a pol they feel was wronged, here in Jacksonville that seldom happens.

Curry models his game after Jags CB Jalen Ramsey, a trash-talker from opening warm-ups to garbage time. I expect that Brosche’s op, including lead consultant Ryan Wiggins, will hit back in kind.

Everybody saw what happened in 2015. The nice guy act didn’t work for that incumbent. And Brosche is going to have to find a way to get into the trenches with the former RPOF chair and knock him back.

From where I sit, it’s good theater.

It would be rather interesting to have Brosche’s thoughts on issues like organization of city departments, reserve levels, out-years on the Capital Improvement Plan, and so on. The campaign won’t get too deep into that. To ensure that we do get a policy discussion, debates need to center on the incumbent and the only challenger who stands a remote chance to dethrone him.


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