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Raking it in: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry added another $200K in his bid for re-election.

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Despite strong 2018 performance, no 2019 mayoral candidate for Duval Democrats

The year 2018 allowed Duval County Democrats to flex, and why not? Though statewide candidates Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson lost, they carried Duval.

At the time, speculation was that was a springboard for a Democratic candidate to carry that momentum into the 2019 Jacksonville Mayor’s race. Whether it was Alvin Brown (back from wherever he goes between campaigns) running to give Republican Lenny Curry what for, or Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, someone was finally going to show the Republican machine what time it was.

The Dems zinged Curry on social media.

Yet when all the drama of qualifying week was finally over, a Democrat did not emerge to challenge the mayor.

As has been widely covered at this point, Republican City Councilwoman Anna Brosche is effectively the Democratic standard bearer, despite having never attended a party meeting. And Democratic Party leadership seems to be fine with this.

Former chair Lisa King, now running for a City Council seat, had nothing on record to say when I asked why a Democrat didn’t run. Current chair Daniel Henry says that in a race without a Democrat running, Democrats can back a Republican like Brosche.

Sounds good. Loyalty can be rewarded. In fact, Brosche has rewarded loyalty in the past, most notably by making the Council’s finance committee majority Democrat when she was Council President. A group of African-American Democrats, calling themselves “the pack,” coalesced behind Brosche over a Dem running against her.

Brosche is branding her campaign to appeal to women, the majority of Duval County voters. Team Curry, meanwhile, will have spent $443,244 on television this cycle by the end of next week, with ad buys on Lifetime, Oxygen, and The Learning Channel spotlighting that Jeopardy! ad Brosche backers keep kvetching about.

The bet seems to be that after four years of Lenny Curry, voters are sick of what the critics call his “bullying” and “intimidation.” Thus far, the case has been made via osmosis, and the only hope Democrats have of ending Lenny Curry’s tenure is supporting a Republican who went to an American Enterprise Institute conference just last year.

Brosche’s chief campaign consultant, Ryan Wiggins, has likewise stayed on the Republican side of the fence up until now. Building coalitions among Jacksonville Democrats has proven daunting for actual Democrats (never mind Republicans), and the question now is whether Brosche can do in two months what some Ds spend a career trying and failing to do.

Dems aren’t playing in other citywide races either.

They are letting Mike Hogan, the GOP Supervisor of Elections, have another term without opposition. Councilman Garrett Dennis, who talked like a Mayoral candidate, wants four more years on a body on which he is as marginalized as possible currently.

GOP Sheriff Mike Williams and Property Appraiser Jerry Holland face Democrats, sure. The Republican incumbents have political machines and fundraising; the Democratic challengers do not.

The best hope Democrats have citywide: John Crescimbeni, running for Tax Collector. Whether he wins or loses, it likely will have much more to do with his brand than that of the party.

Democrats are playing in City Council races, but it’s difficult to assess how viable that strategy will be without coattails at the top of the ticket. Curry definitely has his favorites in most of the races, and some of those Democrats will (like former Mayor Tommy Hazouri) endorse the Mayor for re-election.

Eventually, the argument goes, Democrats will control Jacksonville politics by dint of demographic growth. People moving here will make the city more liberal, they say. Only a matter of time.

However, when they had an opportunity to take the reins in 2019, they seem to have deferred to the Republicans.

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 FloridaPolitics.com 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 a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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