In a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown addressed current and past issues that still occlude his bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.
Among the issues: incumbent Congressman Al Lawson calling Brown “absent Alvin” and other issues from Brown’s mayoralty, including failure/unwillingness to get LGBT rights legislation through Council, and his unwillingness to share a stage with President Barack Obama while the President was in town.
As well, we discussed Brown’s renewed support from some of Jacksonville’s Republican powerbrokers, such as Shad Khan and Gary Chartrand. And we asked him point blank if he had any counter for Lawson’s strength out west and support from public safety unions in Jacksonville.
Brown discounted the “absent Alvin” hit, noting that he was “proud of our record,” which included creating 36,000 jobs, spurring $600 million in private investment, and pushing for dredging the St. Johns, which Brown called a “landmark harbor deepening effort.”
Though Brown has been pilloried on the left for not backing the Human Rights Ordinance, a bill that in 2016 finally codified LGBT protections in the areas of housing, employment, and public accommodations, the former mayor rejects the idea that he opposed the measure.
“All Americans deserve equal treatment. No one should face discrimination,” Brown said, asserting that he enacted LGBT protections and “never at anytime said [he] was against the legislation.”
Brown noted that, in 2015, he ordered the general counsel to “review all forms of discrimination” in Jacksonville.
“Our policy is enacted in City Hall today,” Brown said.
If elected, Brown vows to fight for protections in the areas of both sexual orientation and gender identity — a statement some will see as a dramatic policy evolution.
Brown also discounted claims that he hadn’t shown up for President Barack Obama, noting that he was a 2012 delegate for Obama.
Also, when Obama came to Jacksonville, Brown asserted that he met the President at the airport, and that Obama went to JAXPORT with him, where the President gave a speech.
Brown also said he supported the Affordable Care Act, as part of a larger practice of working with the administration on issues ranging from health care to military and veterans’ affairs.
When the state didn’t come through with Medicaid expansion, Brown asserted that he used community centers for health services.
Moving on from history to the current race, we talked about financial support from Jacksonville Republicans.
Brown was reticent about the specific impact of those checks, preferring to say he “greatly appreciate[s] the support from all corners of the district.”
“Some have been with me since 2011. Some are new,” Brown said, attributing that to him being a “visionary leader.”
Of course, there are Jacksonville players who balk at Brown’s vision. Among them: two Republicans, Mayor Lenny Curry and Rep. John Rutherford, he’d have to work with if elected.
Brown professed to be unconcerned, noting that he had worked with “Democrats, Republicans, and Independents” both as Mayor and a member of the Clinton Administration.
Also of note: Brown, in discussing the endorsement of Lawson by the Jacksonville police and fire unions, asserted that he was “not invited to interview … not contacted” by either union.