Jacksonville City Council candidate Connell Crooms, running without party affiliation for one of five at-large seats, did not intend to run for Council just a few months back.
One of the city’s best known activists, both in terms of social justice issues at large and issues specific to the hearing impaired, Crooms was going to run for Mayor, but ended up pivoting to a Council bid.
More than likely, this race will go past the March First Election to a May runoff.
Three Republicans are in the mix: the best funded is establishment man Terrance Freeman, a deeply connected politician who is currently on the Council after a Gubernatorial appointment to replace a suspended member.
Freeman has roughly $34,000 in hard money, and another $8,000 in a political committee. Democrat Lisa King, a former county party chair, has nearly $12,000 in hand. Neither are large amounts for citywide races.
Crooms has roughly $3,000 on hand, which puts him above Republicans Gary Barrett and Jack Daniels. Unlike King and Freeman, he will have to make that money stretch.
In conversation earlier this week at a forum, Crooms vowed to hold to the messages that have driven his candidacy.
“It’s about working people, their issues” Crooms said. “We don’t get distracted by personality conflicts that seem to be a problem in City Hall.”
Crooms evaluated the field: three Republicans and one Democrat, and said there was “no unified agenda on the Democratic side or the Republican side.”
“We are a city with no vision,” Crooms said, adding that his change of candidacies was intended to help provide a “vision for the future.”
Despite the expectation that Freeman and King will have paid communications, Crooms is confident.
“We have the resources to be competitive,” the candidate said. “It’s completely ridiculous that anybody would need $3 million in a local election … it’s completely ridiculous.”
That last comment: a jibe at Mayor Lenny Curry, a notably engaged fundraiser.
“You have to remember: the majority of people in Jacksonville are poor,” Crooms said. “You’re going to ask poor people to donate to your campaign with no vision and no guarantee that you’re going to be advocating for the people.”
“My donors are all small donors,” Crooms said, including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
Crooms wouldn’t say what committees he wanted to be on if elected, but had some words for Democratic Councilman Garrett Dennis, who has said he wants to be Council President if re-elected.
“These are people who are just motivated by their own political interests,” Crooms said about Dennis and presumably others.