Jacksonville politics is like a Southern family reunion: there are characters of all types.
The 2017 list points out ten of those members of the #Jaxpol family who are uniquely positioned to be in the headlines for one reason or another.
We are hoping that 2016 was an outlier year for scandals, and are not projecting scandal potential onto this list.
These names are in no particular order or ranking.
Lisa King: Does the Duval County committeewoman have what it takes to become chair of the Florida Dems?
King has run against the odds before, running a strong Democratic campaign for Jacksonville’s City Council in a deep red area in 2015.
King got Chamber Republican support, and though she lost the race, she outperformed Democrats elsewhere on the ticket.
Similarly, King was willing to battle Mayor Lenny Curry during what Democrats called a “purge” of city boards and commissions.
Worth watching: what commitments of support roll in for King? What kind of press coverage does she get throughout the state? And will the grassroots coalition she seeks to build coalesce around her as ABC: Anybody but Bittel or Clendenin.
Anna Brosche: January is almost upon us, and with that the thrill ride of Jacksonville City Council leadership elections will be set into motion.
Is this Anna Brosche’s year to run for VP?
Council President Lori Boyer has made no secret of wanting first-termers to get meaningful leadership experience. Boyer put Brosche atop the Finance Committee, the choicest committee assignment there is. And Brosche has flourished.
If there were a bookie taking bets on which member of the Class of 2015 would be first to make her way to council leadership, the smart money would be on Brosche.
Spoiler alert: she’s not averse to the idea.
“I’m definitely considering it,” Brosche said. “I’ve made my way into these spots.”
However, any bid for leadership will happen at a moment of her choosing: “the right time for me, the right time for the council as a whole.”
Is this the right time?
Boyer has been a stabilizing influence atop the council, a small-c conservative pragmatist in the Tillie Fowler mold. Brosche is also cut from that mold.
She doesn’t pontificate. She doesn’t speak to hear herself speak. She generally is more likely to get in the last word than the first.
Anna Brosche has grown in her time in the public eye, from seeming underdog candidate to MVP of the class of 2015.
Watch what she does early in 2017.
John Crescimbeni – the Council VP told us that he wasn’t sure if he’d get to be President. Nonetheless, in preparation for that possibility, the veteran legislator finally hired a council assistant.
He clearly wants to be president. And he clearly has the institutional knowledge to be effective.
So will this be his year to run for the top job?
His run for VP was rough. He beat Doyle Carter by one vote – that of Reggie Gaffney, who had actually pledged to go with Carter, but mysteriously swerved him during the vote itself.
Crescimbeni may face a challenge for the presidency if he runs. But his half year in the VP slot has shown that when in a leadership role, he is able to be a team player.
One would expect that he would be able to count on a solid bloc of Democratic support in a newly revitalized party. With those seven votes, he would only need three Republicans to push him toward the presidency.
Worth watching: if Crescimbeni and Brosche present themselves, however informally and within the guidelines of the Sunshine Law, as a ticket of sorts.
Audrey Gibson – The Senator is one of the best politicians in the area and takes over the chair of the Duval Democrats, at a time when the local GOP is experiencing a schism.
What will she and her party be able to do to exploit it?
The Duval Democrats, of course, have a history of schism themselves. And from what we understand, a meeting as soon as January may include a motion to cap at $1,000 the expenditures a chair can commit to without the approval of the Central Committee.
Donald Rumsfeld used to say “freedom is untidy.” But here’s the reality: if the Democrats want to position themselves well for 2018 and 2019, they need to let the chair do her thing.
She’s won elections. Her critics wouldn’t even know how to start.
Ronnie Simmons – When will Corrine Brown’s almost-former chief of staff turn on his mentor?
As the One Door for Education trial approaches later this year, the machinations that have already happened provide a window into the future.
Simmons’ lawyer filed, then rescinded, a motion for separate trials from the congresswoman.
Brown’s counsel, meanwhile, has strongly hinted that a key to the almost-former congresswoman’s defense is going to be contending that she wasn’t exactly aware of what was being done in her name, vis a vis the $800K of contributions for the One Door foundation.
“Congresswoman Brown and her chief of staff are alleged to have used the congresswoman’s official position to solicit over $800,000 in donations to a supposed charitable organization, only to use that organization as a personal slush fund,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a statement when the indictment was delivered.
Tens of thousands of dollars went into Brown’s personal account, with Simmons as the conduit, from One Door. Luxe hotel accommodations, skyboxes at Beyonce concerts and Redskins games, and other accoutrements of the high life were also funded, as part of over $200,000 allegedly diverted from the One Door account to the Congresswoman’s walking around fund.
Brown is in her golden years. Simmons, meanwhile, has decades to live if actuarial projections mean anything. Expect him to roll over on his former boss between now and the trial.
Mia Jones – Miss her yet? Jones was termed out in House District 14 this year, but it’s only a matter of time before she resurfaces.
Could she run for the city council in 2019? Or could she have something bigger – such as a run against Al Lawson in 2018 – in mind?
Alvin Brown – The former Jacksonville mayor’s meeting with Lenny Curry was one of those #jaxpol events that everyone said they knew was going to happen … after it happened.
Brown requested a meeting with Curry. As someone who was in the mayor’s office when that meeting was taking place, it was clear from Brown’s booming laugh and the bonhomie between Brown and his successor that the former Jacksonville mayor was angling for something.
That something, we hear from good sources, could be a run against Lawson in 2018.
Whether Brown takes on Tallahassee Al or not, the reality is that he’s got to find a way back into the public eye.
Brown’s painting – a tradition among former mayors – will be unveiled this spring in the mayor’s office, at long last.
An interesting sign of the times: Brown is scrambling to get the money needed to pay for it, and the Generous Donors that emerge will be of interest.
While it’s entirely possible that Brown could set his sights on a lesser office, such as an at-large bid for the city council, the reality is that Congress has been in his sights for a long time.
Brown’s first failed campaign: a run against Corrine Brown in the 1990s.
Worth watching: will Jacksonville candidates cannibalize each other if and when one or more runs against Lawson?
There can only be one, if a challenge is to have any chance of success.
Bill Bishop – In 2015, Bishop announced that he in fact would run for mayor in 2019.
However, 2016 changed the former two-term district councilman’s calculus. He has not-so-subtly been hinting at running for city council again – in an at-large seat currently held by John Crescimbeni.
Bishop would, we hear, face off against Republican Mike Anania, who lost a district council race in 2015 to Democrat Joyce Morgan.
Bishop has the name identification advantage over Anania, but the local GOP may want to exact payback for Bishop running against Curry in 2015, then endorsing Alvin Brown once he was eliminated from the race.
Speaking of Alvin Brown, if he were to run for council instead of the United States Congress, he would be in At-Large Group 2.
A Brown/Bishop race would almost certainly be the most interesting contest on the ballot.
Matt Carlucci – Carlucci, like Bishop, is another registered Republican that the hardcores say is a RINO.
And like Bishop, Carlucci is looking for one more run at council: to replace termed-out Greg Anderson in 2019.
Carlucci, like Bishop, has what it takes to run citywide; namely, friends on both sides of the aisle.
Carlucci, if he runs and wins, would offer institutional knowledge of the sort that veterans like Tommy Hazouri and John Crescimbeni bring to the chamber.
Fred Newbill – Newbill, one of the more politically connected pastors in Jacksonville, made an interesting play late in 2015 that seemed like it could affect his 2017.
In 2015, Newbill came out against expansion of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Ordinance to the LGBT community.
In 2017, Newbill is up for a position on the JEA Board.
JEA offers employment and accommodations protection to LGBT people.
Newbill, we hear, has evolved on the HRO since his opposition to a council vote on the measure.
We hear that he’s not going to evolve toward supporting the measure.
However, he seems willing to relinquish his position as a pointman of opposition to the bill.
It will be interesting to see if the Rules Committee or the Jacksonville City Council cares all that much about where Newbill is on the HRO.
Pay close attention to his hearings in both committee and in front of the full council.
They will tell you where the body as a whole is on expanding LGBT rights to match up with most other major cities in the country.