fightin' words

PREDICTIONS

What does the future hold for Jacksonville politics?

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Years back, when I did a sports column in these pages, I often had to predict the future.

Part of that was because of lag time between column submission and publication. I’d typically have to allot five or six days between the time I submitted a column and the time it ran. Thus, assumptions would have to be made.

If I was complaining about Blaine Gabbert, I had to take the chance that he wouldn’t pull it together and throw for 400 yards one game. Luckily, that practice—educated guesses, advanced with Nostradamus certainty—never bit me in the ass once.

Systems, ultimately, are predictable.

Luckily for all of our sakes, the lag time between submission and publication is shorter when needed now. And I’ve learned not to call shots quite so much—which means that the comments I get from readers are only that my opinions, not my ability to see the future, are full of shit.

In this column, however, I’m calling some shots. It’s a new fiscal year, and while I’m not making resolutions, I am making some predictions.
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AL LAWSON SAILS TO RE-ELECTION: I spent a lot of 2016 trying to warn people that Jacksonville was about to lose its Congressional seat.

As flawed as Corrine Brown was, my argument was that at least she’s local and knows local needs. That set up a contrast with Al Lawson, the Democrat from Tallahassee who walked into town with Susie Wiles—you may remember her from City Hall and the 2016 Trump campaign—to grease the wheels for him with local media.

Corrine Brown, of course, couldn’t figure out how to run against Lawson. Part of that was because she couldn’t fundraise under indictment. The other part, though, is that her messaging had gotten conflicted; when media just wants to ask you where the money went from the One Door hustle, policy questions get left out.

Brown lost, Lawson won, and he’s done a reasonably good job of responding to district priorities.

He came up big during Hurricane Irma, becoming a fixture in this district and lobbying the feds to reimburse Jacksonville’s $27M from Hurricane Matthew. And it’s that reliability that seems to be making up for a lack of local roots.

Helping him in that endeavor is the fact that no locals have made a move for the seat.

Former Mayor Alvin Brown has told people he’d run when Corrine Brown was out of the news. But there are reasons to be skeptical; he’s been the invisible man locally for two years, and can’t even get the donors to pony up a few thousand dollars to have his portrait painted for the Mayor’s office.

Right now, it looks like Lawson’s race to lose. Though Mayor Brown laudably did resurface last weekend in conjunction with Puerto Rican relief.
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REGGIE GAFFNEY WILL SKATE ON PLATEGATE: If I ever die and am reincarnated, I want to be a Gaffney brother.

It doesn’t matter what they do, it just works out. We’re going to see that with the most recent Gaffney Gaffe in the “Case of the Purloined License Plate.”

To recap: in 2016, Reggie Gaffney reported his license plate stolen … shortly after someone driving with that tag got popped for running red lights by cameras. Malefactors unknown. In any event, they must have had a pang of conscience. The tag ended up back on his car.

But here’s the thing: police officers didn’t know his tag was returned. So Gaffney got pulled over by officers, and at this writing JSO is investigating narrative discrepancies between the police report and objective reality.

If it were you or me, good luck. But Gaffney is going to skate so easily on this. It’s not in JSO’s interest to punish him, and certainly council has no interest in looking at its own. Expect an exonerating press release from JSO around 7 p.m. some Friday soon—maybe the one before Florida/Georgia, or the one after Thanksgiving.
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EXPECT COMPETITIVE COUNCIL RACES: It’s no secret that the Mayor’s Office likes some councilmembers better than others. Much of the summer was spent on territorial pissing matches with Finance Chair Garrett Dennis on measures ranging from summer camp funding to after school programs. And it’s also no secret that the mayor doesn’t completely line up with Council President Anna Lopez Brosche either.

Expect that there may be real opponents lined up for these two seats—and perhaps others. 

By real opponents, I mean people who can raise serious money, the kind of money required to run a campaign against an incumbent. 

Space is limited, so I’ll close with this: If I had pissed off the Mayor’s Office, I’d be ramping up the re-election campaign already. All you need to do is look at how Angela Corey got laid out by that political machine to understand how quickly the game can change.

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