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Jax Election Results Suggest Politicians Need to Produce

May 19, 2015 - 6:00pm

The question remaining after Jacksonville's city elections Tuesday is, was Alvin Brown a one-hit wonder?

His supporters which included several prominent Republican heavyweights said in 2011 that the Democrat, who had no previous experience as an elected official, was the answer to Jacksonville's problems. Privately, they told people that Jacksonville simply needed to have a black mayor.

Well, Brown is still black but he was trounced by Republican Lenny Curry, who is white and who never has held elected office. But Curry also had the support of some of those responsible for helping Brown get elected four years ago and why they changed horses in midstream still is somewhat of a mystery.

Brown has said it was because he was opposed to raising taxes. His white Republican supporters have said it was because Brown proved to be inept. One local political expert last week called Brown the worst Jacksonville mayor ever.

Was race a factor? Doubtful. Jacksonville has a large black population and a majority of Democratic voters, yet the black Democratic candidates for mayor and sheriff both were defeated.

On the other hand, a black Republican was elected to the City Council. Sam Newby defeated a well-known black Democrat in a citywide race.

Other oddities include the fact that, although Brown lauded Gov. Rick Scott, Scott endorsed Curry, even though local Republicans say Curry had been less than helpful in Scott's first race.

It was difficult sorting out the candidates. Early in the race, Brown appeared at a tea party luncheon and almost sounded like Ted Cruz. He said he was absolutely opposed to raising taxes, and spoke at length of families and faith.

Near the end of the campaign, however, Brown began professing his allegiance to conventional liberal policies such as increasing the minimum wage and closing the alleged gender gap in salaries.

Meanwhile, Curry, who has a public persona rivaling an automaton (friends say he is a swell guy), promised mostly to build bridges -- the figurative kind.

Both tossed plenty of mud, but Curry, with his high-powered backers, managed to outspend Brown by 4:1, a local TV station said.

Turnout was the key to Brown's victory in 2011, but this time turnout was lower than expected, just a tad above 37 percent. Voters in predominantly black neighborhoods did have a higher turnout than in other areas, but not to the same extent as four years ago.

Brown's brief stint makes him the first one-term mayor in almost 25 years, the last being Democrat Tommy Hazouri -- who, as it turns out, won a council seat in the same election.

In the end, it may not have been any of the usual factors pundits like to trot out money, race, endorsements, etc. Politicians in general have such an unfavorable rating these days as a result of the Washington machinations, that voters finally appear to be exercising their own term limits.

Curry might be wise not to make long-term career plans. His fickle supporters and the impatient electorate may have their own plans for him.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as a policy analyst for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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