Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been careful with his messaging since President Donald Trump cancelled the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention last week.
There has been a lot to message, and the first wave was for a national audience.
The Mayor on Friday did a series of cable news interviews, much to the consternation of local reporters who wondered why he went to the Wolf Blitzers of the world and to City Council members who expected the Mayor on a Friday Zoom meeting.
Curry affirmed Trump’s vision and decision in short cable segments on three networks.
Despite what may have been a bumpy road out of the convention, the Mayor was clearly relieved on a Monday Zoom call that the decision was taken out of his hands, continuing to credit the President’s foresight, as he did last week.
Curry described the process, noting he had not made the decision to “pull the plug” despite “recognizing the Sheriff’s concerns about timelines” for security contracts, and his own concerns about COVID-19.
“This happened so fast,” the Mayor noted, describing a positive testing rate that escalated from 3% in recent weeks.
“The President started to weigh in on what he was seeing in Florida. I was asking myself: can we pull this off?”
With concerns mounting on both sides, Curry said “the President made a decision.”
The decision, of course, came at the expense of Jacksonville’s showcase event.
The Mayor, who pushed to reopen bars and move Jacksonville’s path to normalcy even quicker than Gov. Ron DeSantis would have liked, noted that a “permanent lockdown” is not an option.
“What we saw was large crowds partying … I think people were complacent,” Curry said, noting that “others who were in grocery stores and retail stores kind of saw the low numbers and stopped wearing masks.”
If the convention had gone forward, questions would emerge, including of a convention that simply was not able to get basic logistical questions answered for attendees. Basics like press credentials and logistics were not deliverable in the compressed timeframe, groused national reporters.
When asked if Jacksonville just wasn’t on the level of cities that could handle such an event, the Mayor said he “reject[s] the premise.”
“We made an attempt to bring an event here in short order to inject our economy and small businesses with a much needed shot,” Curry said. “Jacksonville has a history of success.”
“If certain locals want to put the city down, that’s certainly their right to free speech,” Curry said. “The President pulled the convention because of COVID-19. We’re going to keep moving ahead and continue to make Jacksonville a better place.”
Other questions started early about tensions behind the scenes, with Gov. Ron DeSantis balking at the involvement of Susie Wiles.
Curry acknowledged personal conflicts, but said “people stayed out of each other’s lane.”
“It’s human nature,” Curry said. “There’s always going to be personality conflicts. We’re all human beings, people. No relationship is perfect.”
The “Governor was supportive,” the Mayor added. “He wasn’t disruptive, he was supportive.”
With the convention now a memory, Curry still looks forward to the remaining years in his term, despite being termed-out and facing economic challenges.
“We’re just working our way through an unknown … the virus, there’s so many unknowns,” Curry said. “I’m not going into lame duck status.”
The Mayor also shot down a persistent narrative that he, like Pam Bondi, will end up with Ballard Partners.
When asked, he said this was the first time he’d heard it.