“There are two things that are important in politics,” Mark Hanna, the late GOP U.S. senator from Ohio, once said. “The first is money, and I can’t remember what the second one is.”
Most political observers across the state agree Lenny Curry beat Alvin Brown in the recent Jacksonville mayor’s race for several reasons. Topping the list, though, was Curry’s impressive fundraising effort.
Curry finance chairman Marty Fiorentino said his GOP team was victorious because they made three strategic decisions early on. Here they are:
Curry courted donors early and often
“We raised over $500,000 our first month, and our strategy was to raise as much as we could as fast as we could,” Fiorentino said. “We had a great finance team, but what also helped was attributable to hard work on Lenny’s part. He met individually with major donors throughout Jacksonville, and that’s how we got out of the box very quick.”
Fiorentino said the top-tier of Curry money men who proved instrumental were Tom Petway, Peter Rummell (who famously switched horses this race) Ed Burr, Gary Chartrand, Jay Demetree, and John Rood.
“We mapped out the major donors in Jacksonville and he began meeting with them one on one, and momentum began to build. And most of our money came from right here at home. That was one thing that distinguished us from the Brown campaign, who had more support from outside the city.”
TV, TV, TV
The Curry consultants blasted the airwaves with ads promoting their candidate (and his family) for months leading up to the city’s first and second elections. It paid off. Brown had a TV presence too, but spent several weeks off the air during the campaign. Curry never left it.
“I think the ability to go on TV early, to fund those early ads, was so important,” Fiorentino said. “It really gave us a competitive edge.”
He said the strong buy-in from major donors early on and the aggressive TV blitz cleared the field of any other Republican competitors (except one, of course, but that’s another tentacle of this mayoral race).
Keep all the campaign money in one pot
The North Florida Republican donor and political class, still smarting from their 2011 loss to Brown, had four years to regroup and rethink strategy for 2015. This time around, they were determined not to split the GOP vote — or the available fundraising kitty.
“What we learned from the last mayoral campaign was, we had all these donors split between three candidates: Audrey Moran, Rick Mullaney and Mike Hogan,” Fiorentino said. “We learned a lesson there, one we talked about a lot. It was, ‘If we all stay together we can win this campaign.'”
“Before, you had the money fractured into three separate camps. That allowed Alvin Brown to win.”
It was a mistake they didn’t repeat. Now, it’s the Democrats’ turn to regroup and plot strategy for the next cycle, which should reveal some interesting backstories as well.