February ended with Jacksonville City Council VP John Crescimbeni storming out of the gate in the race for the council presidency.
A bipartisan group of councilmen — Bill Gulliford, Greg Anderson, Jim Love, Scott Wilson and Tommy Hazouri — signed on very quickly, giving Crescimbeni, a Democrat, a real leg up.
Rhetoric was pitched in the councilmen’s conclave: lots of talk about “council tradition” dictating that, barring some unforgivable transgression against moral or municipal code, the VP move up to the top slot.
In that meeting, Republican Bill Gulliford urged Crescimbeni, the most veteran of the seven Democrats on the council, to close the deal quickly on his opponent, Finance Chair Anna Brosche.
That didn’t happen.
Brosche spent March closing the gap, securing support from fellow Republicans Matt Schellenberg, Sam Newby, Al Ferraro, Aaron Bowman and Doyle Carter.
That left the race at 7-6, with six councilors unpledged.
Two of them are Republicans: Council President Lori Boyer and Danny Becton.
The other four are Democrats: Reggie Gaffney, Katrina Brown, Garrett Dennis, and Reggie Brown.
The four Democrats represent districts 7-10, Jacksonville’s minority-access districts.
It’s uncertain where anyone will go.
Crescimbeni told us Thursday that he’s reached out to all six, and that Boyer and Becton’s assistants told his assistant to check back in May, and guidance has been more elusive from his fellow Democrats.
Brosche, likewise, has been thwarted in her efforts to close the deal.
“My colleagues not having pledged would be better equipped to answer. At the 7-8-9-10 noticed meeting weeks ago, I surmised they would be waiting until either the formal vote or very near it,” Brosche said in a text.
Ultimately, even if Becton and Boyer go one way, the four Democrats from 7-10, if they wanted to work as a bloc, would decide the race.
It’s uncertain whether such cooperation will happen – in 2016’s race for Vice President, some went with Crescimbeni, and some went with his opponent.
Decisions were not made until very late in that race, which ultimately was decided by Reggie Gaffney flipping on his pledge and voting for Crescimbeni.
Sources familiar with the thinking of the four councilors from 7-10 say that they are looking for placements on meaningful committees, and perhaps even a Finance chair from the quartet.
While the Sunshine Law precludes them functioning as a bloc without a public notice meeting signaling that intention, the reality is that the pledge structure has given a four-person bloc the ability to swing the election.
Meanwhile, the four council members have argued, consistently, that their districts’ priorities are given short shrift by the full city council.
These are also two interesting candidates.
Many have called Crescimbeni, an independent fiscal conservative, a DINO.
And others, especially in the 2015 campaign, questioned Brosche’s bona fides on social issues.
As was the case last year, the action in the pledge meetings very well could be washed away by the drama on the council dais during the vote.