Jacksonville City Council hopefuls tee off on Lenny Curry

Duval 14

Most Jacksonville City Council seats are yoked into Democratic or (more likely) Republican representation due to demographics.

A potential exception: District 14, which runs from the Naval Air Station Jacksonville north along the St. Johns River, looping in Ortega, Fairfax, Avondale, Riverside, Murray Hill and other neighborhoods.

Tuesday evening offered voters in that district an opportunity to appraise the five candidates running for the open seat. (Republican Jim Love is termed out.)

Five Points’ Sun Ray Cinema hosted this particular conversation with the candidates, a tradition established in previous election cycles. All five who filed showed up.

And all of them vowed, with varying degrees of urgency, that they would not kow tow to the Mayor’s Office.

Republican Randy DeFoor, an executive with Fidelity and the Mayor Curry’s preferred candidate, maintains her lead in her campaign account and that of her political committee. She has north of $150,000 cash on hand, but the questions prepared seemed (said one opponent) especially difficult for her.

Among the topics: the strong mayor form of government, sea level rise and remediation, and Confederate monuments. These questions, obviously, were more tailored to Democratic candidates than to Lenny Curry‘s endorsed candidate.

Moderator John Citrone quoted some of Curry’s more pyrotechnic quotes about political battle, asking the five on stage to comment.

Republican Henry Mooneyhan, who has roughly $20,000 on hand, said there was “no guarantee” Curry would win, but that he wouldn’t “sign on to be Lenny Curry’s boy.”

DeFoor defended the “strong mayor” form of government, but vowed “checks and balances.”

“You have to work with the Mayor, bottom line. If you don’t work with the Mayor,” DeFoor said, “nothing gets done.”

Democrat Sunny Gettinger, a favorite with Riversiders and Avondale residents, is also over the $100,000 COH threshold. Gettinger, previously of the Riverside Avondale Preservation board, is an executive with Google Fiber.

Gettinger contrasted with DeFoor.

“Hard questions are not hostile acts,” she said, vowing to ask “hard questions no matter who is presenting the idea.”

Write-in candidate Earl Testy, a Republican who devoted much of his candidate’s statement to biographical details about his parents’ divorce in the middle of the 20th century, said he’d “like to think I support the mayor,” but “could say no when I disagree.”

Democrat Jimmy Peluso (~$40,000 on hand), a young military veteran who will attempt to appeal to Navy veterans and enlisted members, asserted that it’s the job of City Council to “hold leaders accountable.”

“Since coming onto the scene here in Jacksonville, I believe the Mayor has made the environment more toxic,” Peluso said. “He’s hiring members, including his chief of staff, who help create a sense of fear in City Hall.”

Toward the end of the program, Peluso dissed DeFoor without mentioning her, alluding to her as the mayor’s candidate on the stage.

The comments about Curry dispatched, the candidates moved on to Confederate monuments.

DeFoor asserted that the real debate is “about racism,” calling for a “candid conversation” on the subject. Gettinger likewise called for “conversation” rather than removal, before eventually saying she wanted them down altogether, “taken somewhere.”

“Let’s take them, let’s be the forerunners for this issue … put them in context … talk about our history as a community on this issue,” Gettinger said.

Peluso, meanwhile, said the monuments “shouldn’t be tolerated in this city anymore.”

And Mooneyhan, disclaiming that he wasn’t a racist, asked how many people knew the actual context of those monuments, drawing scattered boos.

“Slavery was a bad thing,” Gettinger rebutted. “We shouldn’t be celebrating that.”

Mooneyhan cautioned against “playing the race card.”

Climate change and dredging: next up. The comments ran the gamut.

Gettinger noted a lack of city response, regarding flood mitigation and undergrounding utilities: two wishlist items in the district.

Doubting that there was a “business case” for dredging the river, the Democrat noted “major ports to our north and south are ahead of us on this.”

Peluso spotlighted the city’s decision to exit the 100 Resilient Cities plan, which would have given the city $1 million for resiliency planning.

DeFoor, without nearly as much room for critique of the administration as her opponents, asserted her belief that “climate is changing” and that a drainage assessment and plan were needed.

DeFoor speculated that FEMA may start holding out on flood insurance for waterfront properties, noting a “lot of issues” remain to be addressed.

“They don’t have a mitigation plan,” DeFoor said. “We have to have a mitigation plan.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn