Watching Jacksonville's mayoral race
Tip O'Neill's view that all politics is local applies particularly well to mayoral contests, where partisanship tends to be trumped by other factors. We saw that in the election of (Republican) Bill Foster in St. Petersburg in 2009 and the election of (Democrat) Bob Buckhorn this year.
Now there's a fascinating mayor's race playing out in Jacksonville, featuring a tea party Republican, Duval Tax Collector Mike Hogan, against a conservative African-American Democrat, Alvin Brown, a former Bill Clinton aide and now a business school dean.
Jacksonville's most recent mayors, John Peyton and John Delaney, have been moderate Republicans, but in the era of tea party activism, there's a chance voters in the May 17 election may find a centrist Democrat more reflective of the community than a hard-right Republican whose campaign website talks about his commitment to protecting gun rights and combating abortion and illegal immigration, before creating jobs.
Stunningly, one of Florida's top Republican fundraisers, former St. Joe chief executive Peter Rummell, endorsed Brown on Friday. Not stunningly, Gov. Rick Scott on Friday joined Hogan — the heavy favorite — for a tea party antitax rally.
Even while many voters put aside partisanship, the results on May 17 could be an indicator of the climate facing Barack Obama in 2012. After all, George W. Bush won Duval County by 16 percentage points, or nearly 62,000 votes, in 2004, while John McCain in 2008 edged out Obama by less than 2 percent, under 8,000 votes.
"If Alvin Brown gets in the low 40s or doesn't even crack 40 percent, that's not a good sign for Obama," said Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker.
Brown's pollster, Dave Beattie, said in a recent memo that the race will come down to who has the resources to define themselves and turn out their base: "(Brown) was outspent by a greater than 23-to-1 margin by the other major candidates combined. Yet he is still within striking distance because of a strong grassroots campaign and a message that isn’t about race or partisanship, but about the future of Jacksonville. The campaign is a simple choice for voters -- the past or the future: Alvin Brown, who is a businessman who will lead the city in a new direction, or Mike Hogan, who is a 20-year politician who supported the policies that led to our city budget expanding, taxes increasing, and public education failing. If Brown has the resources to communicate his forward-looking vision of Jacksonville to a wider audience, he can win in May.