The mild-mannered, soft-spoken Clay Yarborough has been called many things.
Early on in his eight years on Jacksonville’s City Council, Yarborough was dubbed “Dr. No.”
Even in his last year, when Yarborough was president of that august body, he took a lot of incoming for taking what many people thought to be a quixotic stance against a nude photograph of a pregnant woman at the local Museum of Contemporary Art.
However, we are in the fevered last days of a heated House District 12 Republican primary, and Yarborough — seen as the frontrunner in this race since Richard Clark got out — has been revamped, courtesy of a third-party mailer, as “Taxzilla.”
“How can we trust Clay ‘Taxzilla’ Yarborough?”
The mailer accuses the candidate of continuing to “crush us with higher taxes and bigger government,” citing a millage hike driven by budget pressures earlier this decade and unspecified “wasteful government spending,” as part of the former councilman’s “big government rampage.”
The mail piece comes from “Conservatives for Truth,” an outfit based in Coral Gables, and chaired by Anthony Bustamante.
Since July 23, $280,000 has found its way into the committee’s treasury.
Where did it come from?
Of the total, $130,000 comes from “Citizens Alliance for Florida.” And $100,000 comes from “Rebuild Florida,” a committee affiliated with Jose Felix Diaz.
We’ve written about the convergence of funds around these committees before.
An interesting, and telling line, rests in this quote from Associated Industries of Florida.
“AIF makes makes contributions to numerous political committees that are overseen by good friends in the business community,” the organization said in a statement. “Where those committees choose to donate or how they use those funds is out of our control.”
In this campaign, the “good friends in the business community” aren’t on Team Yarborough. He’s a social conservative to a fault.
Rather, they are aligned with Terrance Freeman, the candidate endorsed by the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.
Freeman, who worked in a public affairs role at the Chamber before moving on to work for Councilman Aaron Bowman (who has an active role with an arm of the Chamber, JAXUSA), is clearly the preferred candidate of the business community.
And there is a long game in mind, locally and statewide.
Locally, there is talk that the Chamber’s own Daniel Davis hopes to succeed Lenny Curry as mayor in 2023.
Statewide? Freeman is, with good reason, seen as the Chamber conservative in the race. And that has obvious benefits for business groups if he is in Tallahassee.
Yarborough? Not so reliable.
To sum: the fear isn’t of Taxzilla destroying the city, so much as Yarborough throwing salt in the game of the business community’s agenda.