Some constituents have inquired as to my picks in this, perhaps the most important round of local elections in a generation. (It’s also an intermediate phase in a cycle leading to the epochal elections of 2012.) I generally try not to make any final decisions until the exact moment I cast my vote, but I have a pretty good idea. None of this is meant necessarily as an endorsement of anyone, nor a knock on any of their opponents; it’s just a statement of one person’s choices. As always, the voter has a responsibility to research the candidates and the issues, all of them, and show up at the polls to make an informed decision based on their own values and vision for the city.
Overview: All 19 City Council seats were up for grabs this year—the 14 regular districts, as well as the five At-Large districts—with 54 candidates on the ballot. Of those 19, only seven (in dist. 5, 12, 13 & 14, at-large groups 1, 4 & 5) were entirely open seats, with no incumbent in the race. Five seats are held by incumbents that had no opposition at all. Amazingly, TEN (including dist. 14) have no Democratic candidate at all.
(Democrats, note that the voters in ten council districts will go to the polls Tuesday without a single Democrat to choose from. It’s like that party made an early decision to fold under the intense pressure of an energized conservative base. They chose not to run their own candidates for several seats, then withheld financial and tactical support from some of those Dems who tried to run, forcing them to withdraw, and they’ve refused to engage NPA candidates like myself who side with them of most of the key issues. I’ve long described the Democrats as a party that loses elections on purpose, and their piss-poor performance statewide over the last six months proves that I was not joking.)
[Note: Asterisks denote those contests in which I, as a resident of District 14, am actually able to vote for this year.]
*Mayor: This is the one category in which my personal choice remains a secret, for several reasons. As a potential member of the council, I don’t want to put myself in the awkward position of having to deal with someone I openly opposed; likewise, I don’t want to have to publicly oppose a mayor I endorsed previously. It’s standard practice in Jacksonville that, if you’re backing a losing candidate, expect payback. This year seems especially contentious, with the Moran-Mullaney-Hogan Tea Party troika being openly hostile to each other and barely able to conceal their mutual distaste.
Alvin Brown is pretty cool. If he were living anywhere other than Jacksonville, he’d be about to win this thing outright. Instead, odds are decent he may not make the runoff. His biggest problem is that many people in his own party do not like him. The question of whether Jacksonville is ready for a black mayor (or a woman, for that matter) remains an open one. He brought tons of top-shelf talent here on his behalf: Michael Eric Dyson, Corrine Brown, Bill Clinton, professional loser Al Gore. Yet he trailed in fundraising from the get-go, then became subject to a whispering campaign from local Democrats implying he “couldn’t win”. Classic example of action being invoked in words; open falsehoods spoken early turned to fact through repetition
The GOP had no obvious role in this, but Audrey Moran becomes the beneficiary of many votes opposed to conservatives Mike Hogan and Rick Mullaney. One thing Audrey has going for her is that she’s had considerable experience in dealing with crazy people. The next mayor will be confronted with crazy choices and hopeless debacles that will drain their passion for the job fast. It will be a challenge for any of them to actually enjoy the job for any length of time. They will likely serve one term and run screaming off into the woods, or jump on a plane and go somewhere they don’t speak English. And one can only imagine what could possibly follow that.
Sheriff: John Rutherford has been much-maligned during his eight years running JSO, but it’s hardly all his fault. Still, I’ll be voting for Ken Jefferson. As the department’s former Public Information Officer, he has the communications skills needed to explain the often incomprehensible behavior of our constabulary. As an African-American with his own ‘hood credentials, Jefferson has the “street-cred” to speak to that segment of our community that needs “straight talk” more than any other: young men. He can also help mediate the tensions related to the pension situation.
Politicians have given them an impossible task of enforcing an endless array of stupid, business-killing, liberty-thwarting laws (including a Drug War that has ruined millions of lives and only made drug abuse worse than ever) while their funding was first stalled-out, then cut. Older cops are cutting out early, leaving newbies under-prepared for real-world situations—hence, the glut of police-involved shootings, rarely the work of veteran officers. And now, it’s become clear that, despite the biggest economic boom in US history, cities all over America consistently failed to adequately pay into the police and fire pensions. The poisonous effect this revelation has had on the working relationship between first-responders and civilian government has spread like wildfire.
*Property Appraiser: Kurt Kraft.
*Tax Collector: Michael Corrigan is the outgoing (term-limited) councilman for Dist. 14, and by most accounts he’s done a fine job. While I voted for his challenger, Jim Minion, in 2007, he gets my vote for Tax Collector. This position may prove as powerful as the Mayor’s over the next four years. One possible way to fight back against Tallahassee’s ridiculous mandates is to perhaps withhold our property tax revenues from them, or even set the millage rate so low one year that the payout is next to nothing.
*Supervisor of Elections: Jerry Holland runs unopposed. Having been a candidate myself for some five months, I can attest that all my dealings with his office have been smooth and efficient. Beth Fleet, Lana Self and Justin Giacone, along with their colleagues, have restored a lot of credibility for an office whose reputation was taking serious (sometimes unfounded) hits under the late John Stafford a decade ago. No incumbent should ever run unopposed, ideally.
City Council District 1: Clay Yarbrough draws a lot of heat for his conservative views, but he’s also the youngest member of the council. Lindsey Brock may be a little more moderate, but poor Darryl Fleming is being outspent twenty-to-one. It’s one of the many cases of how the local Democratic Party has routinely failed to support the candidates running on their behalf. Alvin Brown’s a good example.
City Council District 2: Bill Bishop
City Council District 3: Richard Clark is being challenged by Mario Rubio, and the difference between them on policy is negligible. Generally-speaking, it’s best for a community to reelect their incumbent, unless he’s a total failure (which Clark certainly is not). There is some advantage to seniority. (Note: If Clark wins, look for him to challenge the next mayor in 2015, especially if it’s Audrey Moran.)
City Council District 4: Don Redman runs unopposed, which is maybe the most shocking thing about this election (other than the likely abysmal turnout and almost nonexistent media coverage of the council races). His district includes much of the downtown bar and club scene, which have been done few favors under his watch. For all we’ve heard about his FBC connections and presumed opposition to culture in general, it’s unthinkable that Democrats could not find a single person to even mount a token challenge. Of course, this dynamic reinforces Dist. 14 as the default point-man for arts and culture, and makes my own candidacy all the more appealing—I hope!
City Council District 5: The guy I was supporting, Derek Washington, dropped out for lack of funds. (After all, why would Democrats write checks to the only Dem running against four Republicans?) Lori Boyer’s way ahead on fundraising, which basically means she’ll win. But one of her opponents is named Jack Daniels, so that may cost her some votes from the whisky-drinking community.
City Council District 6: Incumbent Jack Webb has raised more money than both his opponents (also Republicans) combined, but that might not help him. He came off really badly arguing about yard signs on TV. I disagree with some of his positions, but there’s really no difference between the three. Again, keeping the incumbent benefits the district, so it’s hard to argue against him.
City Council District 7: Johnny Gaffney’s a good guy and a skilled public servant, but I think Mark McCullough brings a youthful energy to the job that will be necessary. Those representing mostly urban districts, particularly on the eastside and northwest quadrant, will face unique challenges. Their districts are already in crisis, and things are about to get much, much worse. The fact that so many council-folk representing those districts (all of whom are nice enough) had no opposition in such a crucial year speaks to why these areas basically have no say on policy and no control over its own destiny.
City Council District 8: E. Denise Lee runs unopposed.
City Council District 9: Warren Jones runs unopposed.
City Council District 10: Reginald Brown runs unopposed.
City Council District 11: Ray Holt
City Council District 12: Dist. 12 shares a border with Dist. 14, which is worth considering. Doyle Carter (R) has a huge fundraising lead, out-raising both Joe Andrews (R) and Jim Davis (R) by a four-to-one margin. But Davis really impressed me with his work at the League of Women Voters forum, and since they’re all basically do the same thing, I vote Davis on style points, just ahead of the Carter.
City Council District 13: Vanessa Williams. When in doubt, vote for a woman.
*City Council District 14: I’ll be voting for myself (NPA), of course. But the five other candidates—Kendal Bryan (R), Jill Dame (R), Jim Love (R), Henry Mooneyham (R) and Greg Rachal (R)—are all solid citizens, any of whom would probably do just fine if they won. District 14 is a lot more self-sustaining than others, which takes a lot of pressure off whoever is doing the job. Any pick would be a good one.
My concern here, as with many of the other quality candidates seeking office this year, is whether they’ll be willing or able to stand firm against the seemingly unstoppable push for austerity being driven by Tallahassee. The pressure that will come down on office-holders to compromise for efficacy’s sake may prove irresistible. My plan is to simply vote against any such cuts, while coordinating public resistance to them. It remains to be seen how they will fare with people screaming at them, violently angry at the council for making moves that will destroy people’s lives.
*City Council At-Large Group 1: Kimberly Daniels has gotten tons of heat lately from liberals who forget that her main opponent, David Taylor, is a solid conservative who, with a three-to-one cash flow advantage, will likely win.
*City Council At-Large Group 2: Tom Patton’s media background should serve him well in a job that is ultimately about communication. He’s running to unseat incumbent John Crescimbeni, whose biggest obstacle is that he’s a Democrat at a time when Dems just aren’t being elected by voters.
*City Council At-Large Group 3: Steven Joost runs unopposed.
*City Council At-Large Group 4: Juan Diaz is maybe the most exciting new candidate to emerge this year, and he’s an easy pick in my view. His opponents include Greg Anderson and Jim Robinson; all are solid Republicans with fiscal conservative cred, but Diaz can be a really effective salesman for the city, and we need more of that.
*City Council At-Large Group 5: Voting for Michelle Tappouni. This is another one of those races boasting several strong candidates. Don Foy’s work with MAD DADS was very important for addressing the crime issue, but he’s running NPA against five solid Republicans. Sean Hall’s quite capable, too, but he lost me on the car thing. The issue with Tappouni, as with other female candidates running this year, is how will they respond to being bullied by political opposition as the heavy action gets going this summer. Latent misogyny in America’s political system has become more of a factor as women advance to higher levels in the power structure.