Last week, I drove up to the Legends Center on Soutel Drive and watched Mayor Alvin Brown give the most fiery and impassioned sermon/press conference I have ever seen him deliver.
Brown was on point and in his element in the Bully Pulpit of the Divine Church of Base Turnout, speaking with conviction about his upbringing, when he was raised by two “strong women with PhDs in common sense” while his father was “missing in action.” The autobiography underscored a point: Were it not for his pastor, the mayor might have ended up in a much different situation. So as he told the gangbangers theoretically listening to his speech that “we are not going to tolerate it anymore. You do the crime, you are going to pay the time,” he projected the requisite power and passion.
Still, questions were raised. It’s an interesting tactic, for one, to shout at press conferences. Who knows how that will play with the swing voters? The other question: Where was his support from other Democrats?
Lord, yes, the preachers were there. But Democrats running citywide were not there. Including the two most respected ones, sheriff’s candidate Ken Jefferson, and former mayor and at-large candidate Tommy Hazouri.
Why not? Jefferson, a police department lifer and two-time Spokesman of the Year, could have offered Brown some real ballast for his statements about the JSO not using its $400M budget effectively. Hazouri, meanwhile, had run City Hall and could speak with authority about what a mayor can do about crime prevention and intervention.
Those cats were nowhere around. The mayor cut endless promos on the sheriff, ignoring Rutherford’s contention that every increase in the JSO budget over the last four years has gone to servicing pension obligations and workers’ comp claims. He gave a shout out to Loretta Lynch, telling those assembled that he was sending a letter to the Justice Department to ask for help with our gang issue.
But the man who could offer salient critiques of the inner workings of the JSO — the guy running against the sheriff’s handpicked successor, who has messaged a significant part of his campaign against the “veil of violence” that’s descended over Jax — he was not there. Neither was the man who had handled four municipal budgets, created 38,000 jobs in his four years in office, got rid of the tolls and the paper mill smell, and served, in the ’80s, on the Sheriff’s Task Force on Mental Health.
Now, the policy side folks will tell you they keep the campaign and the policy sides separate. A functional construct, though better than no construct at all. But you could probably count on your fingers the number of joint campaign appearances Alvin has made with Tommy or Ken, even if you’d had a grenade accident or two. A good question is “Why?”
Perhaps Brown doesn’t want to sully himself by association with the man who finished first in the First Election by 15 points, a man who has gotten endorsements from two Republicans he defeated. Maybe he doesn’t want to deal with having to answer for something Tommy Hazouri said or did a quarter-century ago. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. You never hear Jefferson or Hazouri mention the mayor in speeches. Ever wonder why?
The irony is that Brown has gotten more rousing endorsements from Republicans on Council than these Democrats. Ray Holt and Stephen Joost endorsed him a few weeks back, and on Thursday, Bill Bishop followed suit, lauding the mayor for his work on the port, the pension, and Downtown redevelopment.
The hot rumor is that Joost was promised Chief of Staff. And the T-U’s Nate Monroe reports that Curry claims that Bishop, before endorsing Brown, told Curry that there’d be a “lost decade” were Brown re-elected, as part of an attempt to broker a deal. And then there was that year that Bill spent telling the world that Alvin was a lousy mayor. So do you take that endorsement at face value? And how seriously can you take any of them?