Council Conundrum

The deadline for hopeful candidates to qualify for the Jacksonville City Council races is Friday, Jan. 11. If you’re holding out hope for some seismic drama, though, you’re most likely to be disappointed. Of the 19 council races at the time of this pre-holiday writing, the vast majority will be won by candidates who jibe with the agenda of Mayor Lenny Curry.

In At-Large Group 1, the smart money is on Terrance Freeman’s filing to run, if he hasn’t already. Freeman will have a six-figure bankroll and a raft of endorsements after getting his sea legs on the council … after Rick Scott appointed him to sub for indicted Democrat Reggie Brown.

At-Large 2: Republican Ron Salem is as connected as connected can be, and he’s got all the scrill. In At-Large 3, it’s “Mr. Human Rights,” Tommy Hazouri, who serves as Curry’s lead blocker on the City Council. Republican Matt Carlucci can likewise be counted on to play ball in At-Large 4.

And in At-Large 5, incumbent Republican Sam Newby is yoked to Curry, just like the lot of them. While Newby will draw a challenge (Lisa King? Tracye Polson?), he’s also going to get serious about fundraising this campaign. Last time, he won citywide with a measly $10,000 bankroll.

So all five At-Large seats might well go to CurryCrats.

Looking at district races, there’s a tale that Bill Bishop may have had a path to victory over incumbent Joyce Morgan in Arlington’s District 1. The price? Endorsing Lenny Curry’s re-elect. Bishop hasn’t cut that deal, clearly. Meanwhile, the Jax Chamber has already endorsed Morgan, who looks poised to have a political future well beyond Jacksonville City Council.

Al Ferraro, another Curry guy, will likely be victorious in District 2 again. Council President Aaron Bowman, of District 3, backs the Curry agenda, just as the next council president (Scott Wilson, District 4) does. In District 5, LeAnna Cumber will be just as formidable an enforcer of consensus as incumbent Lori Boyer is now. In District 6, Rose Conry is almost certain to take the win, barring any last-minute wackiness. Hard to beat a Gaffney in District 7. (Yes, Reggie’s a Lenny guy). And in District 8, Ju’Coby Pittman is rapidly climbing the ladder of political success, having already summited so many others. Though a Democrat, she plays the game, too.

Right there, you have 13 votes for whatever.

District 9 is up in the air at the moment, as the world waits for Garrett Dennis to get off Twitter and get down to the SOE to file. Likewise, District 10 is hard to handicap without a serious fundraiser. District 11’s Danny Becton often talks a game of dissidence, but a lack of other options in his district keeps the money on his side and the wolves at bay. And Becton usually votes the way everyone else does in the end.

Meanwhile, District 12’s Randy White and District 13’s Rory Diamond (both the only candidates currently in) align with the mayor’s office: two more reliable votes.

District 14 does not yet have a certain conclusion, but there are, by a cursory count, no fewer than 15 votes for #JaxOnTheRise.

Three years ago, no one really expected that the last year of city politics would be a flamewar between two city councilmembers and the mayor’s office. Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis worked really hard with the current body to propose and sell reform measures of various types. They couldn’t get through the line. Transparency? JEA Board reform? Confederate statues? Pick your favorite hot-button issue and recall how theatrically they were gaslit and sandbagged time after time.

The next four years won’t deviate too far from consensus.

Leaving aside the mayor’s race and the structural difficulties challengers are burdened with, even if someone beats Lenny Curry in March (LOL) or May (probably LOL also), that person will be working with Lenny Curry’s council.

Can you imagine the level of sabotage that could arise from all this? Somebody would have to slap a TV-14 rating on City Council meetings.