With less than a year before Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry faces the voters, a “good news/bad news” scenario awaits his political operation.
The good news: there’s no viable competition filed to run against him yet, even as one could make the argument that City Council antagonists Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis have sounded like candidates for a while.
The bad news: criticism of Curry’s governing style has started to emerge from historical advocates and allies.
Curry has historically said “let the critics chirp.”
However, these are new critics — historical allies who now feel comfortable voicing private critiques in public.
Does it matter?
In Folio Weekly this month, former Mayor and Curry endorser John Delaney likened Curry to Gov. Rick Scott and President Donald Trump.
“Trump, Rick Scott, Mayor [Lenny] Curry, […] they’ve got the strong man style of governing and kind of power things through,” he said.
Delaney, now employed as part of a “strategic alliance” between Rogers Towers and The Fiorentino Group, has nothing to gain professionally by making that assertion. Buried paragraphs into a longer article about his tenure as University of North Florida President, it might have been easy to miss.
However, those in Curry’s orbit did not miss it.
The editorial page of the Florida Times-Union has been a consistent cheerleader of the mayor’s initiatives with unbylined editorials, even rolling up their sleeves and mansplaining to Brosche why she should have let Curry speak out of turn at a February meeting on the JEA valuation report.
“Pure and simple, Brosche’s conduct went over the line last week—way over,” read the remonstration.
However, a bylined piece from editorial page editor Mike Clark put the Mayor on notice, with the strongest critique of Curry in three years from the paper’s editorialists.
“A strong and effective mayor is needed to make consolidated government work. The final grade has yet to be issued on Curry,” Clark wrote.
“Curry began his tenure on an impressive winning streak,” per Clark. “But his wins have stalled in the last year, especially relating to Downtown.”
And then, a statement that might be seen as ironic who remember the T-U’s editorial condemnation of Brosche for not kissing Curry’s ring on Valentine’s Day.
“His winner-take-all leadership style has been characterized as bullying by his critics. Lack of transparency also is a frequent criticism of the administration.”
Before writing this article, we sought Curry’s take on the T-U piece; however, his Monday media availability was limited in scope.
Team Curry has professed (and professes) not to be worried about re-election. A UNF poll has him at 56 percent approval, but that’s not the number his team sees.
When asked about a potential challenge from Anna Brosche, Curry wasn’t worried.
“I’m going to continue to pursue the priorities that I’ve laid out,” Curry added, “and make the case to the public.”
“I have the resources to make the case to the public,” Curry said, alluding to having raised $2 million so far for the re-election.
“I’m going to continue to do that,” Curry said, “and I’m confident that the engagement and interaction I have with everyday people will result in Lenny Curry being mayor, not just through this next year, but in the years ahead.”
Curry doesn’t necessarily need the support of the chattering classes to win. With the kind of money he has, and the bully pulpit of the Mayor’s Office, he (or his political operation) can shiv the critics.
However, there are those who see a path to unseat him.
Garrett Dennis, a Democrat, asserts Curry will be a one-term mayor.
Dennis believes that there is an “anti-Curry machine” that won’t be placated, likening the momentum to that which made Tommy Hazouri a one-term mayor.
Will the Curry critics line up behind a Dennis or a Brosche?
Or will Curry prove them wrong, and in the process prove that it pays to put the emphasis on strong in a strong mayor government?