The Crooms Factor

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard,” asserted H.L. Mencken many years ago.

That still holds true today, as we vote for politicians in most campaigns who nibble around the edges of civilizational decline. No matter who we vote for, we are assured that our currency will be worth less, the value of our labor will decrease every year, our competitiveness with the world will continue to wane, and so on.

Also generally assured in most elections: No matter who wins, civil liberties will be abridged.

There is an interesting paradigm emerging in the Jacksonville mayor’s race, however, where, for the first time in the city’s history, a candidate is in a prime position to use his candidacy as a mode of full-on social critique.

While Mayor Lenny Curry already has $1.5 million banked, and will continue to busk and hustle, a candidate who likely won’t get to seven-figure fundraising stands poised—IF given a platform—to offer a broadside critique of business as usual (and no, not Garrett Dennis or Anna Brosche, as they are playing a longer game).

I am referring to Connell Crooms.

Crooms became known to Jacksonville residents in the wake of a protest that went awry in Hemming Park last April.

After an interaction with counterprotester/provocateur Gary Snow that ended with Crooms bumping into a cop and getting beaten into unconsciousness by a number of officers, Crooms was arrested as part of the Jax 5.

The charges against Crooms were dropped. And now he’s running for mayor.

Some may ask him why he’s not running for council, a question he answered on Facebook: “Have you been to a City Council meeting? That alone is why.”

He’s also running without party affiliation, because local Democrats “do not have the leadership or plan that working class voters need to return Jacksonville to its roots of unionism and bring funding back into the city budget.”

“The work that’s been done over the years by groups and individuals shouldn’t be attributed to a party that hasn’t led on important issues facing voters,” Crooms added.

There is one Democrat running, Doreszell Cohen, who has raised $600 in the months she has been a candidate.

Judging from the response to an article I wrote for another outlet saying Crooms was running, he will have stronger fundraising.

As the field stands, there’s no reason Crooms can’t get to the runoff. Cohen doesn’t seem to have the grassroots support. And Republican Jimmy Hill, a former Atlantic Beach Commissioner running because Curry cancelled his boat show promotion, filed for bankruptcy just before filing to run for mayor—which would seem to inhibit him from any personal loans to his campaign.

What can Connell Crooms, the only candidate for mayor to be beaten down by local cops in the history of the city, bring to the debate? For starters, a stronger focus on the relationship between the police and the policed. From “walking while black” and associated racial profiling to issues of the carceral state and clemency, Crooms is uniquely positioned to spotlight such issues and ask why the donor class continues to fund inequities.

He can also call out incumbents, including Democrats, for making no moves on the City Council to try to bring local civil liberties protections into the 21st century. As much fulmination as there has been about the police with this council, there has been no legislation. Ultimately, changing law enforcement won’t happen without changing laws. Crooms can and should be an advocate on that front.

His entry into the campaign will bring back a familiar nemesis: Gary Snow has vowed to weigh into Jacksonville politics once more, and is making the case that Crooms is aligned with the New Black Panther party. Snow’s propensity to counterprotest will be a feature also of this campaign.

Lenny Curry, of course, will keep running his race, though one suspects that if Crooms is polling at a certain threshold, the oppo will surface. One local politico notes that Curry went down 10 points in polls during the JEA controversy.

Meanwhile, as candidates enter this race, and the mayor is not quite teflon as his third year in office hurtles toward a close, one wonders what might happen if a more establishment candidate were to jump in.

Could Curry be held below 50 percent with the right field, forcing the runoff?

Could Curry be compelled to debate this field?

The mayor’s race is getting more interesting by the month. And Crooms may be running a campaign like the New York mayor’s bid run by Bill Buckley half a century ago. He may not win, but he very well might change the conversation.