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?”