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Endorsements may loom large in tight Jax mayoral race

The Jacksonville political scene is being treated to Endorsapalooza in the final days before the city’s runoff election on Tuesday, as a slew of bold-faced names take sides in the Brown/Curry slugfest.

And the two men at the top of the ticket are hunting big game in the endorsement stakes.

Lenny Curry has bagged former Jacksonville Mayors John Delaney and John Peyton.

In his column, incumbent Mayor Alvin Brown has former Mayor Jake Godbold and arts-and-culture leader Wayne Wood.

The lists go on: for Curry, GOP heavyweights like Rick Scott, Rick Perry, and Jeb Bush. (Plus former Democratic Council member Johnny Gaffney.)

For Brown, Bill Clinton, Bill Bishop, and now, another local Republican, former City Councilman Matt Carlucci.

Writes Carlucci: “Jacksonville is moving in the right direction. Momentum is building. Downtown has potential evidenced by exciting opportunities due to Mayor Brown’s leadership. Unemployment has been cut in half. 36,000 new jobs created and more to come! The pension plan, with the help of the City Council, is on the cusp of solution. Does Jacksonville face challenges? Of course. Mayor Brown can solve these problems. Like former mayors, he has struck his gait, become more seasoned. I have  served with and helped great mayors. It took time for each  to find their sea legs. All former mayors and former elected officials, including myself, should pause to remember our growth in the respective positions we held.  Mayor Brown has also grown. He has rounded the learning curve of a very difficult  job and is more than ready for the next four years to finish the job.”

The meme: Brown is finally on a roll and deserves a second term because all mayors have a steep learning curve in the first.

That’s a line of messaging Curry’s high-profile endorsers dispute, of course. The countermeme: Brown has failed to display leadership on a range of issues.

The question: Do these endorsements (on both sides) make a difference? Especially in a contest most pollsters think will go 51/49?

“Sort of,” UNF pollster Mike Binder said. Binder runs the school’s Public Opinion Research Laboidatory.

“It’s always good to get an endorsement, better than not to have them at all,” he said. “Maybe it sways a couple of voters on the margins. Remember though, the vast majority of voters have made up their minds already one way or the other. So endorsements only help on the margins.”

“That said, this race is going to be won in the margins.”

Binder said it’s striking to see how personal relationships and rivalries are forming the backstory to cross-party endorsements in Duval leading up to the runoff.

For example, Republican City Councilmen Stephen Joost and Ray Holt, along with Carlucci, have crossed party lines for Brown.

On the other hand, Democratic City Councilwoman Denise Lee has not been shy about blasting Brown for radio ads she calls “race-baiting.”

“It’s really strange,” Binder said.

“I think it might come down to personal politics and personal relationships. Clearly party is No. 1 in endorsements, but it’s not 100 percent of everything. What’s also at play here is, some of these people know Alvin Brown and like him. Some know Alvin Brown and do not like him. And vice versa with Lenny Curry.

“There are actually very little policy differentials between the two candidates, so this is actually more like a primary race in a sense. That’s because Alvin Brown has mostly governed like a Republican. So when there are less policy divisions, other things, like relationships, can matter a little more.”

“This race will likely come down to 51/49,” he said. “The only question is, which way?”

Written By

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at m.ross66211@gmail.com.

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