Tuesday was very arguably a mixed bag for Mayor Lenny Curry‘s political interests, as endorsements of Frank White and Baxter Troutman in the AG and Ag Commissioner races went for naught.
However, many of the big bets Curry made paid off. And the remaining ones will show the strength of his political operation if they pay off … and reveal gaps (perhaps exploitable in city elections next year) if they don’t.
The biggest bet Curry made: a late-game endorsement of Ron DeSantis in the Governor’s race.
“We agree on many things,” Curry said just weeks ago. “Got to be tough on crime. Got to get bad guys off the street. Invest in young people.”
“Ron and I have similar backgrounds,” Curry related. “We come from working-class families. Worked our butts off to get a good education.”
“Ron’s a good conservative. I’ve been about disrupting the status quo locally, and I think that’s what’s got to happen everywhere,” Curry added. “Ron’s going to disrupt the status quo in the state of Florida. I’m supporting him.”
Curry and various regional political allies (Sen. Rob Bradley, Rep. Travis Cummings, and Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams) endorsed DeSantis in that time frame, with Curry’s endorsement last — and, to the consternation of certain Democrats, at a city of Jacksonville governmental event.
But a win’s a win. And Curry — and Jacksonville — will be a bulwark against Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum, if the Mayor’s political capital still holds like his team and donors believe should happen.
Two Democratic races went Curry’s way, putting those on his ever-growing enemies list on check. The first: U.S. Rep. Al Lawson fending off a challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.
Curry would not criticize Lawson when asked, saying they had a strong working relationship. Even as GOP donors swung behind Brown (to bring the seat back to Jacksonville), Curry didn’t engage. And it seemed like much of the oppo Lawson used was recycled from Curry’s 2015 campaign for Mayor against Brown.
Meanwhile, another Democratic race in House District 14 served as a shiv at the heart of Curry’s political enemies.
The other competitive primary in the Jacksonville area was the HD 14 Democratic clash between incumbent state Rep. Kim Daniels and Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright.
This was an open primary. And Daniels, written off by her party, taught them a political lesson.
She was helped along by mail from political allies of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, which targeted Wright and lauded Daniels, in part to teach a lesson to Duval Democrats for opposing him. The pass-through Conservatism Counts committee blamed Wright for crime in Duval County schools in mailers and the like.
Wright was the Duval Dems establishment choice, endorsed by Sen. Audrey Gibson, state Rep. Tracie Davis, and Councilman Garrett Dennis. Daniels, conversely, was targeted for myriad scandals and apostasies from party orthodoxy.
In the end, voters went with the incumbent, who was backed by many Jacksonville Republicans. Daniels won by 10 points, beating a Democrat favored by the party for the second time in two years.
In House District 15, a similarly salutary result, where lawyer/lobbyist Wyman Duggan won Tuesday over yacht broker Mark Zeigler and Joseph Hogan (son of Elections Supervisor Mike Hogan), in the GOP primary to succeed Rep. Jay Fant in House District 15.
Duggan, supported by the Jacksonville establishment (including multiple ads featuring political patron Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry), battled attacks against his lobbying for a company looking to buy local utility JEA.
Nonetheless, he had 40 percent of the vote, an 8 point win over Hogan. And despite criticism, Curry got his candidate through. And did it despite JEA being the primary messaging out of the campaign.
Duggan’s fundraising advantage allowed him roughly a $25,000 a week spend on television ads, an option foreclosed to Hogan and Zeigler.
Duggan will go on to face Democrat Tracye Polson, a candidate unopposed in her party’s primary.
Polson, a well-funded candidate with a deep capacity for self-financing, has roughly $150,000 in hard money and another $55,000 in her political committee account.
Curry’s team intends to “torch” Polson. Expect the oppo to fly.
Farther downstate, Curry-endorsed Mike Waltz won the Republican nomination to succeed Ron DeSantis, setting up a high profile clash in Florida’s 6th Congressional District with Clinton administration alumna Ambassador Nancy Soderberg.