During those weeks and months leading up to May’s mayoral election, dire warnings abounded from what passes for the left in Jacksonville.
They warned that Lenny Curry would “turn back the clock.” Denise Lee repudiated that claim, over and over again, but it got ugly and stayed ugly, with Curry asking Mayor Brown in a debate, straight up, if Brown thought Curry was a racist.
And they warned that Curry would hire a bunch of party hacks for his staff positions. If a better writer had been making those arguments, he would have whipped up a vignette that had Curry and his senior staff doing a victory lap around First Baptist Church last Sunday.
And they warned that Curry would stand in the way of an HRO expansion. “At least Alvin reached out to his General Counsel,” ran the argument.
None of that happened. None of that came to pass.
Lenny Curry, in the hires he announced of June 30, has so far brought aboard four African-Americans, two of them Democrats, in prominent positions: former Councilmembers Denise Lee and Johnny Gaffney, former Fire Chief Charles Moreland and LaTanya Peterson.
People will say “aw, choosing such-and-such was a political payback.” But for those folks who maundered about Lumb, Yarborough, and Redman FBCing up the inner circle, there is no proof for that assertion.
The folks who got the positions that matter include Sam Mousa as Chief Administrative Officer, Mike Weinstein as Chief Financial Office, and Kerri Stewart, a self-described “moderate Republican” as Chief of Staff.
No Santorum pandemonium, or Huckabee-mania, or Cruz-control, or Jindal fandom in that mix. Nothing even approaching that.
Lenny Curry and his team have addressed the HRO question more in the last few weeks than Mayor Brown and his team did in the past three years.
Regarding an HRO, Curry will “lead on the issue and convene [stakeholders] sooner than later,” says Stewart.
This is consistent with what John Delaney told me during a sit-down interview last month. Curry, he said, is more moderate than what he campaigned as being.
Yes, he “ran conservative.” But that was strategy. Delaney told me that Curry’s team made a bet that running in Jacksonville was more like running in a GOP congressional primary than running in a major city’s mayoral race.
Well, you saw how it went. Maybe it will be different in eight years. You probably aren’t getting rid of Curry in four.
People, like the venerable Marvin Edwards, wrote in these very pages that Curry would have Sam Mousa’s and Tom Petway’s hands in his pockets. Is there any proof of that? Not really. Edwards dug into the crates and brought up some 20-year-old news clippings. That’s fine.
Sweetheart deals may be easier to find in more recent headlines. The roads are as prone to collapse as the stock market, yet we paid $41M for Shad Khan’s scoreboards. Khan, in turn, dropped $250K into the Alvin Brown campaign. I don’t know what the return on investment is on that public private partnership, but I could see the old scoreboards just fine.
The fact is, the case against Curry was predicated on mounds of bullshit. Oh, those mailers. Oh, he had [insert GOP Presidential candidate here] endorse him. Oh, he has no experience in City Hall.
The case is still being made against Curry by dead-enders. Just a tip: It might be more effective to make that case after his first present-tense scandal. Digging up dead paper is about as effective as the hired guns from the Florida Democratic Party shrieking about GOP PARTY BOSS LENNY CURRY for six months.
Curry has made a lot of promises. Ensuring public safety, budgeting responsibly, getting the blighted areas of town moving toward the 21st century, and improving education. If they don’t show progress, he should be called on that. Time will be the measure, and good luck to him when interest rates spike and equity markets cave.
Meanwhile, his staff choices, and those he chose not to hire (I can think of two GOP councilmen on that list) speak volumes. He used the party structure to get where he wanted to go. And he has made sure that the same party won’t use him.