Choosing the classic Avondale café The Fox to illustrate the point, Mayor Alvin Brown joined the restaurant’s owner Ian Chase for a news conference touting his support for an increase in the local minimum wage.
Denying the move was an electioneering strategy, Brown told reporters he supports raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, saying it would lead to thousands of new jobs in Florida.
“In Jacksonville, business is booming and job creation is on the rise,” Brown said. “But we need to do more to ensure our workers are given every opportunity to succeed. Floridians deserve higher wages and equal pay for equal work.”
Chase, who also owns the downtown restaurant Chomp Chomp, echoed the theme: “Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s good for business. Well-paid employees are harder-working and more-loyal employees. I have a great staff who I’m happy to pay more than the minimum wage.”
Chase’s comments were clearly designed to bolster the mayor’s emphasis on the bipartisan nature of raising the minimum wage, which he said is supported by 67 percent of small businesses.
Lenny Curry campaign manager Brian Hughes was quick to dismiss the announcement as a “stunt.”
“What evidence is there that Alvin Brown has ever cared about a government-mandated wage? For four years and eight months he’s never even uttered a syllable about this issue. But once again, 25 days before an election, Alvin Brown is suddenly the architect and advocate for more liberal anti-business policies,” he said.
The state’s minimum wage stands at $8.05 per hour, just above the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
Brown also went after Curry’s record on minimum wage increases while he was GOP state party chairman, contending that “in 2014, Curry compared the Republican and Democratic agendas for Florida, criticizing Democrats’ attempts to raise the minimum wage, falsely claiming it would kill jobs and reverse economic progress.”
Raising the minimum wage has become a rallying cry for Democratic leaders, with a proposal now in Congress to raise the federal minimum to $12 an hour. In his most-recent State of the Union address, President Obama also called for an increase to $10.10 an hour.
It’s an issue that, despite the blandishments of bipartisan support, polls better with Democrats than Republicans, part of the decidedly more populist tone the Brown campaign has struck heading into the May runoff.
Hughes said: “As a businessperson Lenny Curry advocates for policies that are pro-economic growth and pro job creation. The government mandating wage increases as has been evidenced in cities like San Francisco and Seattle is terrible for job creation and actually leads to job loss.”
Meanwhile, a polling document provided to FloridaPolitics.com by Curry’s consultant firm Data Targeting Research and aimed at supporters claims that “Lenny’s positive name recognition continues to steadily increase and for the first time — in our more pessimistic turnout scenario which assumes an even more Democrat-friendly electorate than that seen in the 2011 General — Lenny has a lead over Mayor Alvin Brown head to head.”
That contradicts recent polling on the May runoff election showing Brown with about a 3 point advantage over Curry. With a race seen by both sides as within the margin of error, look for the claims and counter-claims to only intensify during the next few weeks.