Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said he was “not going to weigh in” on the race for Jacksonville City Council President, as it would “create chaos.”
But his comments Thursday suggested that Curry, a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, supports former Democratic Mayor Tommy Hazouri over Danny Becton, a Republican who launched his campaign for the position on Wednesday.
Hazouri had secured sufficient pledges to guarantee victory, but Becton’s bet is that he can peel off supporters, a questionable proposition but clearly the action plan.
The Mayor noted that Hazouri and he had a “great working relationship” and had “worked closely over the years … on many issues.”
Curry referred to Hazouri, the current Vice President of the Council, as the “likely successor” and the “expected successor” to current President Scott Wilson.
Toward the end of his answer, he’d noted having worked with Becton also, but the implication was clear.
For those expecting a last-minute lifeline from the Mayor based on party loyalty, none was to be found.
Nor would it be expected, given the strong working relationship between Curry and Hazouri that has flowered over the course of years, compared to the occasional ad hoc collaborations between the Mayor and Becton, who has often been off message with regard to the administration.
Though the two beefed in their respective first years in their current position, they soon enough found a way to work together on pension reform.
Curry and his political operation pushed a plan to reamortize what was then roughly $3 billion of unfunded liability, with the restructured debt to be defrayed by a sales tax starting in roughly 2030.
Hazouri served as a key Democratic validator of the pension push, as Curry’s political advisors noted that the former Mayor had more name recognition and favorables than anyone else on what was then and still is now a thin Democratic bench.
In their respective 2019 reelections, the two cobranded, with an ad buy spotlighting Hazouri’s cross-party endorsement of Curry’s reelection coming via the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Curry’s lean toward Hazouri comes at the expense of the Republican Party, which has played in City Council leadership races before.
In 2017, the GOP helped to push Anna Brosche over Democrat John Crescimbeni, despite indications being that Curry’s team was much more comfortable with Crescimbeni.
The Curry/Brosche dynamic went from chilly to ice-cold, culminating in her crash-and-burn bid for Mayor and a current sabbatical from public life.
If Becton somehow is to win this election, might he make Lenny Curry pay for not backing his leadership bid?
Alternatively, if Hazouri wins, one can predict that the near-term future is bleak, in terms of committee placements, for those who decided to contest a long-dormant leadership election during an official state of emergency.