A hot topic before the Duval County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner was Mayor Alvin Brown wowing the attendees at the Tea Party’s Leaderboard Luncheon. One of Brown’s leading Republican supporters, local real estate magnate Toney Sleiman ( the Jacksonville Landing developer who has featured in Alvin Brown television ads) reportedly took Brown to the lunch to help with his ongoing outreach to socially conservative Republicans.
One attendee posted on Facebook that the Democratic mayor had given Tea Party activists “a lot to think about” regarding the election. Reports are that Mayor Brown was so highly regarded that he was asked why he didn’t switch parties.
With that kind of reception, many who were not there wonder if there was a quid pro quo reached between Mayor Brown and the Tea Party activists relative to stopping the HRO, or Human Rights Ordinance, being extended to the LGBT community.
Local Tea Party activists oppose such a measure, which was defeated by one vote in City Council in 2012.
For their part, both the event organizer, Billie Tucker, and the Brown Campaign Deputy Manager Fabien Levy deny such a quid pro quo happened.
Tucker says that he “did not address” the HRO. Levy, meanwhile, did not address the questions specifically regarding Sleiman brokering the lunch or a possible agreement to stymie the anti-discrimination legislation supported by the Jax Chamber.
The Alvin Brown campaign’s Fabien Levy had this to say regarding the luncheon.
“Mayor Brown spoke about all that he’s done working with Republican, Democrats, and Independents to put Jacksonville first. On his first day in office, the mayor sat down with Republican Governor Rick Scott to talk about how they could work together and the two have had a great relationship since,” claimed Levy.
“The mayor has worked with Governor Scott, business leaders, and Jacksonville voters from all walks of life to boost our economy and create the right economic environment to create more than 36,000 new jobs and make Jacksonville the number one city to start a new business,” Levy added.
“He’s worked with members of both parties to protect Jacksonville tax dollars, cut wasteful spending, and save taxpayers more than $100 million. He kept his word and opposed a tax increase that was imposed by members of the City Council Lenny Curry helped elect. He understands that we need to live within our means, and so he led by example and cut his own pay by 20 percent. These are all commonsense ideas that Republicans and Democrats agree with,” Levy continued, adding that “unlike Lenny Curry, who only serves as a partisan attack dog that puts politics first, Mayor Brown has and will continue to put Jacksonville first — that’s why Republicans like Toney Sleiman, Ron Autrey, Mark Frisch, and Shad Khan are all enthusiastically supporting the mayor,” Levy concluded.
2012-296 was introduced, say people familiar with Brown Administration thinking, without cooperation with the Mayor’s Office, which some claim is the reason that the Brown Administration stayed neutral during the discussion.
There is no consensus among Jacksonville insiders as to whether Mayor Brown would support a rejuvenated push toward an HRO either. Some well-connected people believe that Brown would push to get one through in a second term.
Others, meanwhile, adhere to the belief that Mayor Brown’s reticence on this issue is because he opposes such legislation, both because of personal religious beliefs (the Mayor is a devout Southern Baptist, and many pastors in his orbit do not support such a measure) and because he believes such a measure would not sit well with socially conservative Republicans, whose support he wants.
I asked Tucker for further details of what was discussed at the luncheon. She demurred, saying that “I am not going to discuss our speaker’s presentation anymore. The Leaderboard Roundtable is a private invitation only group and we do not allow the press in unless approved in advance. I thank you for your interest but we are not giving interviews about any of the candidates who are appearing in front of our group.”
I reached out to Bill Bishop, the candidate in the race who has vowed to support an HRO if elected. His comment was “this race is very interesting.”
What is clear is this: Brown is willing to run to the right in his re-election bid. He just doesn’t want to say much about the specifics thereof.