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Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry talks the rise, and fall, of the Jacksonville RNC

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‘This happened so fast’: Lenny Curry talks the rise and fall of the Jacksonville RNC

Jax Mayor talks Republican National Convention cancellation.

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.

Meanwhile, other media described Jacksonville as literal “roadkill,” chasing a convention it didn’t have the moxie to pull off, despite the Mayor’s glossy hype video and a lot of early ebullience.

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.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Frankie M.

    July 27, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Thank God the sheriff jumped on the grenade for all involved. Now that’s leadership.
    Trump cancelled because he didn’t want to stand in the heat in front of 2k people a la Tulsa.It’s not worth his time. If it were up to Lenny we’d never cancel anything. Reopen schools & bars(teachers gotta drink too)…sacrifices must be made for the greater good i.e., the economy. Full steam ahead!

  2. Sonja Fitch

    July 28, 2020 at 5:31 am

    Looting Lenny woke up to the news another shooting til dead happened! Looting Lenny you might want to do your damn job and represent and serve all in our communities! Sheriff Williams has openly admitted he is a failure at protecting and serving our communities! You two need to get out. You two are loooooosers!

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