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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lessons for GOP in Jax mayoral race?

rrick.jpgRepublican leaders said over and over in recent weeks that a race for mayor of Jacksonville amounted to the first big Florida fight in the 2012 presidential race.

"The liberal organizers who want to keep the American people enslaved by wasteful spending and hideous deficits need to know that theyjax.jpg have jumped the gun on 2012 and have awakened a sleeping giant,'' Duval County Republican Chairman Lenny Curry declared this month before handing a $50,000 check to Republican mayoral candidate Mike Hogan. "We're going to send a message that Florida is red."

Republicans better hope Curry is wrong about the Jacksonville race being a harbinger, because an African-American Democrat named Alvin Brown this week was elected mayor of Florida's largest county. Across Florida and even the country, stunned Republicans are struggling to understand the narrow upset in conservative northeast Florida.

"Jacksonville has always been a conservative stronghold for Republicans, and we're going to have to really study what happened in this race," said Florida Senate president and U.S. Senate candidate Mike Haridopolos, who had expected Hogan to win handily.

Municipal elections tend to be much more about local issues than partisan politics, but the Jacksonville election does provide some warnings to the Florida GOP.

For one thing, it showed the Florida Democratic party still has a pulse after the drubbing it took in 2010. The party spent more than $500,000 helping Brown, a centrist business school dean and former Bill Clinton staffer, and demonstrated a formidable turnout operation.

What's more, Brown's win showed the potential risks of fully embracing arch-conservative tea partiers — as Hogan did — and suggested Republicans may face some fallout over the perceptions of Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

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[Last modified: Friday, May 20, 2011 1:46am]


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