In the aftermath of her loss of the Jacksonville District 2 City Council race to Republican Al Ferraro, Democrat Lisa King took to Facebook to issue some observations.
“I went into this race knowing the mountain I had to climb in getting people to look beyond party identification to qualifications and experience was steep. But there were so many mountains to climb first. … Could I raise money? Could I get key endorsements? Could I get support from key neighborhood leaders? I met each of these first challenges with an ease I never expected.”
Indeed, King did get endorsements from a wide range of business groups, including the JAX Chamber, and unions. But it wasn’t enough.
“But what I also didn’t expect was a hyper-partisan ‘nationalization’ of our City’s election. None of the problems Council is being challenged to solve will be fixed by Washington or even Tallahassee, they’ll be solved right here, by local leaders and local tax dollars. This nationalization of our City electoral process is disturbing and we must all work together to see it never happens again.”
On Thursday morning, Florida Politics spoke to King, who is about to embark on a trip to Spain later in the day. As she was in the campaign, she was candid about what went down Tuesday night, about the local Democratic Party, the mayoral campaign and hers, and how this local campaign was effectively de-localized to the Democrats’ detriment.
“We did a deep dive into the data, and we outperformed every other Democrat on the ticket, including Tommy Hazouri, in the district.”
But it wasn’t enough, she said, to combat the “nationalized” election and the “top down partisan messaging from either team,” which drove party identification voting as the Lenny Curry team wanted.
“I had so many people say to me that ‘I didn’t even realize that you were a Democrat’,” King said.
King asserts that neither local party has a real platform, and being a Democrat is tough in Jacksonville.
“The party has been so weak for so long locally,” she said, without “viable candidates in a lot of races.”
Despite the party disadvantage, her polling this month showed her to be well-positioned, leading within the margin of error as late as early May, with a 10-point advantage in favorable numbers (a scenario not unlike that of defeated At Large Group 5 Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman, who also looked headed to victory in polls earlier in May.
“People don’t even focus until the last two weeks,” she said.
Another pressure was from the map itself.
“Since 2011, district lines were redrawn,” making figuring out the lay of the land difficult.
Ultimately, however, District 2 is a Republican stronghold. Gov. Rick Scott dominated the district in November 2014, leaving it to King, running as a Democrat, to try to make the race less partisan. It was an uphill climb and she didn’t quite get there.
That said, “I far exceeded my own expectations,” in both money and performance. Between hard money and soft money, she raised more than $200,000 in the District race.
And that was without help from the campaign of Alvin Brown, whom she’s known for a quarter century.
“This was not a target-rich environment for the mayor. I outperformed him by 8 points in the district. I wanted to make sure voters turned out,” she said, and the assumption was that would help Brown as well.
Unlike was the case with some candidates, she got “no pressure” to devote resources to the Brown’s failed re-election campaign.
“No one ever called and gave me that kind of pressure,” she said, as Brown’s team wrote off her district, saying “voters in the area were low on the campaign’s priority list.”
“In Democratic politics in this town, every man is for himself. They don’t do a great job coordinating; I knew I’d be on my own.”
“There’s no machine. I earned endorsements, tried to get them coordinated” and to build a “diverse coalition,” King said.
She did; it just wasn’t enough.
People told her to switch parties, as Reggie Gaffney did, but she refused.
“Voters are smart enough to see that for what it is.”
And she did raise money, but so did Ferraro, who has yet to call her back in the wake of the voicemail she left him after her concession.
Going forward, King may run for something down the road. She also hopes to be engaged in helping more women to get elected to city council, and pushing toward a fully inclusive Human Rights Ordinance.
One thing’s for sure: Lisa King is not going away, win or lose, and the civic discourse is enriched with her presence.