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Backlash grows against Lenny Curry campaign tactics: “Fake white supremacist rhetoric”

Whether it’s television spots using clips of local news anchors to allege that Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown raised taxes (much to their dismay) or aggressively anti-Brown data-targeted flyers landing in the mailboxes of registered Republicans and independents all across Duval County, the Lenny Curry campaign has been running a heavily negative campaign seeking to define Brown early in the eyes of undecided voters.

Now, the backlash is underway.

Local news leader WJXT-TV has complained about the Brown attack ads using their on-air talent, claiming they’re misleading.

Now the local blog Jaxonpool has gone so far as to call the campaign’s mass mailings “comically quaint white supremacist rhetoric,” expressing alarm at what some view as Willie Horton-style messaging.

“They depict Brown in the ugliest possible terms, linking him to crime and rape,” writes blogger Justin Voltaire. “This rhetoric is so old school, connecting black males to rape and crime. It makes me feel sad for Curry.

“If Curry wants to regain credibility, he needs to make a strong, unequivocal statement denouncing these mailers and separating himself from the PAC putting them out,” the post continues. “Otherwise, if he gets elected, he will find that he will have burned important bridges because, even though he’s not one, he’ll be widely perceived to be a racist bigot. People have long memories.”

The post also takes aim at the professional handlers who’ve come to Jacksonville from other locales (They are on the ground on the Brown side, too) to manage the high-profile campaign.

“This is what happens when political operatives from outside the city move in and take over a campaign and start controlling the candidate … these outsiders really don’t know the city. They just have some warped view of it, a stereotype of what Jacksonville was like in 1950. By my calculation, 1950 was 65 years ago. And yet, they still assume that the majority of the city’s voters are bigots. They really don’t understand how much the place has changed.”

Four years ago, Brown broke barriers in Jacksonville, a city with a tortured racial history, by becoming the city’s first African-American mayor, along with being the first Democrat to hold the office in a couple of decades.

Should he win re-election, Brown’s ability to seemingly defy political gravity in Jax will give him serious political capital should he seek to ascend within his own party.

Although his approval ratings have been robust, opponents see a lackluster executive who hasn’t delivered on bipartisan promises to take Jacksonville to the “next level.” For their part, Brown’s supporters are quick to point out unemployment has declined and downtown development has burgeoned under his tenure.

Voltaire (who refers to himself as a registered Republican) writes that Jaxonpool was on the verge of endorsing Bill Bishop for mayor, but is now reconsidering, saying the Curry campaign tactics “have had the unintended effect of making us stop and think things over again. When Alvin Brown, the city’s first African-American mayor, gets pounded pretty much just because he’s black, that makes us wonder whether maybe we should reconsider supporting him.”

The Brown campaign had no comment on the Jaxonpool post.

Meanwhile, Curry campaign manager Brian Hughes pushed back hard.

“The suggestions taken from an anonymous blog riddled with factual errors and  inconsistencies are not only false, they are offensive. Holding someone accountable for their failed record has nothing to do with the color of their skin. Those voices who would seek to sidestep a discussion of the serious issues facing Jacksonville’s future by trying to interject race into a discussion where it does not exist are only trying to needlessly divide.”

 “Worse yet is giving voice to these divisive and inaccurate comments posted on an anonymous blog,” he said.

 (Jaxonpool is affliliated with the Jax Scriblerians in the city’s CoRK Arts District.)

Written By

In addition to her work writing for Florida Politics, Melissa Ross also hosts and produces WJCT’s First Coast Connect, the Jacksonville NPR/PBS station’s flagship local call-in public affairs radio program. The show has won four national awards from Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). First Coast Connect was also recognized in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 as Best Local Radio Show by Folio Weekly’s “Best Of Jax” Readers Poll and Melissa has also been recognized as Folio Weekly’s Best Local Radio Personality. As executive producer of The 904: Shadow on the Sunshine State, Melissa and WJCT received an Emmy in the “Documentary” category at the 2011 Suncoast Emmy Awards. The 904 examined Jacksonville’s status as Florida’s murder capital. During her years in broadcast television, Melissa picked up three additional Emmys for news and feature reporting. Melissa came to WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. Married with two children, Melissa is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism/Communications. She can be reached at m.ross66211@gmail.com.

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