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What to watch for in July in Jacksonville politics

The Jacksonville City Council begins its summer break (July 2 — 13). This is advantageous: It allows them to order more plaques and picture frames for proclamations, and allows some time to plan more creative escapes from the dreaded Sunshine Law.

The schedule has a lull, but that doesn’t mean things are getting dull. What follows: some political phenomena to watch in Dirty Duval in that dread interregnum between July 4 and the beginning of Jaguars’ preseason.

New Budget July 23: Mayor Lenny Curry’s budget presentation to July 23, as City Council President Aaron Bowman will be traveling the week before, and the late reveal will require serious budget meetings by the Finance committee that may impact Council members’ Labor Day travel plans.

That’s the bad news. The good news is, if the capital improvement budget is any indication, there will be lots to run on and little to grouse about.

As the Florida Times-Union reported, a draft CIP has $189 million in projects and includes such big-ticket items as beginning to tear down the Hart Bridge ramps and $20 million for U.F. Health.

This is up from a CIP that was close to $100 million in the last budget, and $78 million before that.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa said a couple of years ago the city could use a $400 million capital budget. What is clear: this election year budget uses budget relief from pension reform and still-cheap-for-now borrowing to attempt to make a dent in Jacksonville’s capital needs.

More murders? More problems: A narrative persists in Jacksonville that the public safety rhetoric that Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams ran on has not led to a reduction in the murder rate.

Even though both first-term Republicans are candidates with a real cash advantage, this could be a problem in the quickly-approaching 2019 campaign.

The 4th of July through Labor Day is a time that historically is conducive to murders, including but not limited to the turf war variety by competing gangs. If there are headline-grabbing weekends, it will be exploitable by those challenging incumbents.

Mayor’s race moves: Will Anna Brosche file once she finishes her vacation? Will Garrett Dennis?

Brosche and Dennis seem to be testing the waters. Brosche has said as much to media numerous times. Dennis, meanwhile, has said repeatedly that Lenny Curry will be a one-term mayor.

I’ve said this on electronic media, and I’ll type it here: Dennis and Brosche, whether they run against Curry or run for re-election, will have oppo against them shopped.

Tim Baker does not play around.

Curry is well-positioned with Chamber Republicans for his re-election. It remains to be seen how he will bring the cultural conservatives, piqued over the non-veto of the Human Rights Ordinance expansion to protect LGBT people, back in the fold.

Curry did visit the Duval Republican Party recently, a sign that he’s going to try to shore up his right flank. But expect a lot of folks to stay home. Both from knocking on doors and voting.

What’s clear is that he has problems with a number of different groups. How many people who voted for Alvin Brown in 2015 are lined up for Lenny in 2019? It’s hard to see this one being a coronation like the re-elections of John Delaney and John Peyton.

However, there are strategies to muddle the field. One such strategy that forces friendly to Curry can use, especially to keep Dennis/Brosche in check: find a way to build up activist Connell Crooms.

Crooms likely won’t have the capital to market his campaign beyond the social media space, but he made it clear last week that he is ready to counter-message Dennis.

“Several people approached me … and had complaints about the media pushing Garrett Dennis to run for Mayor. Local Democrat leaders have long been upset that I won’t run under their party banner. I’ll say this, I don’t care and I would welcome a debate (in fact I relish it) with Garrett Dennis and Lenny Curry because I more than either one having been here before either one were in office and understand it’s about the People. The contradictions of Dennis and Curry will expose itself, and there are MANY.”

If you are Lenny Curry (and if you’re him, you’re probably watching Good Morning Football on NFL Network instead of reading this), you want Crooms to get some traction. Find a way to make him a vessel for all the oppo that undermines Dennis’ (or Brosche’s) bona fides. Find a way to get money to him, even through a dizzying maze of Eric Robinson political committees. Impose false purity tests via proxy on the left, and stay in the center-right lane.

And insist that, no matter how marginal an opponent is, said opponent is in the debates. You’re on TV as often as you want. Your opponents, like Eminem in “Lose Yourself,” get one shot, one opportunity to seize everything they ever wanted.

And they likely don’t have the campaign guidance to know how to exploit it, creating one of those “mom’s spaghetti” moments the fortysomething rapper lionized in that hit.

The goal: 50.01 percent in March. With the best polling and messaging operation in the area, and a bunch of late-starting campaigns in opposition, there is a way to create a demolition derby in the field even before the first debate.

Al against Al: City business may be in a lull, but the titanic battle for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 5th Congressional District continues.

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown scored arguably the biggest individual endorsement of the campaign season, via Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan last week.

Word from a Khan confidant: Congressman Al Lawson didn’t even try when it came to building a relationship with Khan over two years. Whether that’s true or not is less important than the fact that it’s Khan’s perception. He owns the town. And every politician is little more than a glorified keyholder.

Perception, including nationally, is that Lawson is vulnerable. Roll Call lists Lawson as a potential Democrat who could go down in the August primary, in the wake of Rep. Joe Crowley’s defeat in NYC.

The Roll Call analysis elides certain details, among them, being that Brown is, despite messaging on Lawson’s purported softness on gun control and non-revulsion by President Donald Trump, not some progressive reformer, but a fairly conservative Democrat.

Another elided detail: the Jacksonville Vs Tallahassee dynamic of this race. Locals aren’t especially excited about Alvin Brown, but the “this is a Jacksonville seat” belief was never shaken, even after Corrine Brown lost to Lawson in 2016.

New Councilors: We know that by the time the Jacksonville City Council reconvenes that there could/should be new Councilors. But who?

Weeks into the application process, three Republicans jumped in who have run, and lost, before.

Terrance Freeman, who finished second in a five-man primary in the Southside’s HD 12 is one. Rev. Mark Griffin, who lost a surprisingly competitive race in the HD 13 general election, a second. And Chris Whitfield, thumped in the general election in HD 14, is the third.

Scott very easily could pick two Republicans to replace indicted/suspended Democrats Katrina and Reggie Brown.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at

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