Attention, local TV news producers: Politics may be interesting enough to warrant coverage again soon!
We are about to embark on a year full of shit-talking, character assassination, opposition research and money from suspicious places. We’re going to see plastic smiles fade into the reality of politics; namely, that the people who go into the game and want power are necessarily driven by ego.
It’s ego that provides protagonists and antagonists the conflicts that make these ballot box battles sizzle. This week, we look at three of these—any one of which could be a main event.
AL vs. AL:
There is a certain irony in this, to borrow a phrase from editor Claire Goforth, Battle of the Blands between Alvin Brown and Al Lawson.
Brown, Jacksonville mayor from 2011-’15, positioned himself as a Rick Scott Democrat. Brown relished talking about his collaborations with Scott, still a Tea Party darling at that point. In fact, Brown even courted Tea Party support in his reelection bid against Lenny Curry and Bill Bishop … two Republicans.
It got so bad, in fact, that Brown even denied being a delegate to a Democratic convention for Obama.
“Yes, I’m a Republican. Yes, I was party chair. You are a Democrat. You were a delegate for Obama,” Lenny Curry said in a debate, reminding viewers that Brown was a delegate to the 2012 re-nomination convention.
When asked about it after the debate, Brown told a reporter (probably me), “I don’t know what [Curry’s] referring to.”
Brown might have a problem establishing Democratic bona fides, if he weren’t running against a man closer to Congressional Republicans than Democrats—Al Lawson.
Lawson’s closest ally in Congress is Republican John Rutherford. When on the campaign stump, the two were already discussing how to work together. And, lest we forget, Republican powerbroker Susie Wiles, who went on to run the Florida Trump campaign, was the one introducing Lawson to local media during his quest to capsize Corrine Brown.
Lawson has banked a meager $100K so far for his reelection bid for Congress, and doesn’t seem to have an actual campaign apparatus yet. So he has no vehicle to counterattack when Brown’s campaign pulls Lawson’s pants down over things like, oh, IDK, being the only Congressional Black Caucus member to applaud Donald Trump at the State of the Union.
Lawson did talk to media last week, saying Alvin Brown was Corrine Brown’s “protégé” and might be a cousin of Queen Corrine. But his 2016 campaign was amateur hour. He’ll have to do more this time than stand by and watch as his opponent gets indicted.
CURRY vs. DENNIS:
Mayor Lenny Curry doesn’t have much use for Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis.
Curry threw a press event last week at a restaurant in Dennis’ district to celebrate achievements in NW Jax, and didn’t invite Dennis. Dennis showed up anyway, and stole the show by telling media he’d gotten a concealed weapon permit recently, after a member of the mayor’s senior staff told him he was a “walking dead man.”
That phrase probably was meant politically; Curry’s team likely will field a candidate in Dennis’ district.
Dennis is all but being invited into the ring to run for mayor against Curry, yet Dennis somehow thinks a reelection bid against the mayor’s machine is his best bet. No, dude, no.
Democrats are dying for someone, anyone, to talk shit about Mayor Curry. Yet most of the Democrats on City Council are in Curry’s hip pocket. Dennis is finance chair now, but expect that next term—when Curry ally Aaron Bowman is (probably) president—that Dennis will be marginalized on committees after a year of grandstanding.
Dennis may not be able to beat Curry in an election. But he’s the only Democrat in town who has a puncher’s chance.
AUDREY GIBSON vs. REGGIE BROWN:
One of the Dems on council who works well with Mayor Curry, Reggie Brown said he’s running against state Senator Audrey Gibson.
Brown has denied persistent rumors and accusations that Curry’s putting him up to it. Gibson, so far, isn’t willing to go on record and say the mayor is shivving her for opposing the pension reform referendum in 2016.
Statewide Dems wonder what the hell is going on in Duval. Gibson will be Senate party leader after the election—if she wins. Losing this position of power won’t do the city any favors.
Brown gives a great quote, is a charismatic candidate, and will be trouble for Gibson if she doesn’t figure it out quickly. You can bet money Republican ops will help Brown behind the scenes, and we know how useless the Democratic machine has been when it comes to fighting the dark arts practiced by GOP consultants and money.