He’s a retired optometrist, but Wayne Wood is a bold-faced name in Jacksonville for pursuits that go far beyond medicine.
Described by some political observers on the First Coast as “the king of soft power,” Wood has never held public office. But his influence is considerable, particularly among the city’s arts-and-culture advocates and downtown enthusiasts, and his support was sought by both Mayor Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry after the city’s First Election back in March.
“Lenny was in my living room the next day, and Alvin the day after that,” Wood tells FloridaPolitics.com.
Now, after throwing his support behind mayoral candidate Bill Bishop in the city’s First Election, Wood has made a decision in the final days: for Brown.
“After having good conversations with the two candidates for Mayor, it is now clear to me that we should vote for Alvin Brown. I encourage all former Bill Bishop supporters and undecided voters to do the same,” he says in a letter provided to this reporter.
Wood weighing in late in the game is not new. Back in 2011, his ire over the way mayoral candidate Mike Hogan seemed to flip-flop over his stance on the city’s historic neighborhoods made an impact just days before the runoff.
As this May 2011 Florida Times-Union column noted:
“The noted preservationist took umbrage with a Mike Hogan mailer that sought to cozy up to his Riverside neighborhood. His howls of protest to a decades-old vote against historic neighborhoods echoed from Springfield to San Marco.”
Wood says he’s basing his endorsement on three factors: the experience of the incumbent, the city’s momentum, and the negative tone of the mayoral campaign. Excerpts:
- “Although he made some early stumbles when he first took office, Alvin Brown has grown as a leader and has fine-tuned his administration to move this city forward. His opponent Lenny Curry has no experience in government. Like Alvin Brown and John Peyton before him, Curry would take several years to master the complexities of running our city. We are making too much forward progress now to bring in a rookie.”
- “Another major reason to vote for Alvin Brown is that Jacksonville is now moving in the right direction. Our Downtown is undergoing a renaissance under the Mayor’s leadership.”
- “A third and compelling reason is the unprecedented negative campaigning by the Curry political machine. Never in my memory can I recall local political ads that have been so harsh and that have stooped so low.”
Wood had held out on endorsing either Brown or Curry, saying he wanted the candidates to take more specific positions on the city’s human rights ordinance and how taxes and spending will be handled going forward.
“No one has made me any promises to get my endorsement,” he says. “I just think this is the best choice.”
Bill Bishop took 17 percent of the total vote in March, winning in particular the historic Riverside/Avondale precincts that are now in play. Can Wood, the self-styled “arts agitator,” serve as Pied Piper in this neighborhood once again?
Says Wood: “I’ll do everything I can now to make sure this area goes to Mayor Brown.”
It’s important to note the endorsements have been flying on both sides in this race’s final stretch, with Curry drawing the support of a slew of high-profile Republicans, including former Jacksonville mayors John Delaney and John Peyton, along with Governor Rick Scott, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.