Notes on the 2015 Elections in Duval County

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#kayfabe

It’s good to hear that so many took advantage of the early-voting. Analysts have been projecting the usual pathetic turnout for this spring’s elections, and with fewer than three in ten registered voters projected to show up, it’s pretty much impossible to get anything better than politics-as-usual. I didn’t early-vote; I always prefer voting on Election Day. I love the ritual of getting a coffee, then standing in line talking to fellow voters, listening in on conversations, etc.

That said, I’m writing this on Monday, the 23rd of March, the day before Election Day. Assorted friends and readers have inquired about my thoughts on the election, but aside from occasional posts on social media, I have mostly refrained from writing about these elections at all. I’ve probably done less writing about this election than any since 1996, on any level, and that was not by accident. After running for City Council myself, four years ago, and pulling about 1,300 votes in a district with 41,000-plus voters, the experience changed my perspective on how the business works. Is politics corrupt? Of course–deeply, madly, inextricably so. But while we can go on all day about the failures of elected officials and the weakness of new candidates, the bitter reality is that it is the people themselves who are the weak link. Their laziness and passivity creates the broader context in which our leaders can underperform because, deep down, they know they can get away with it. They know the people have neither the courage nor the character to facilitate change, no matter what they say. So, I figured, why bother covering a rigged game–especially when no one wants to get into the exact nature of the rigging, and there is no possibility of being paid for it, anyway? Nah. Let the elite play politics, and let the people pretend to care, and the beat goes on and the beat goes on…

With the first round of elections coming tomorrow, a number of the more interesting candidates this year will be eliminated, because fresh thinking is not really appreciated here. Indeed, we’ve seen a number of instances in which the harshest reactions have come directly at those trying to think outside the proverbial box in which political orthodoxy is housed, fortified like the bunker under the old courthouse. For the amusement of the handful of you reading this, and for the sake of promoting my appearance on WBOB AM600‘s Election Day wrap-up show (Tuesday night, 7-9pm), I offer here a rough glance at the people I’ll probably be voting for tomorrow, and why. These are not endorsements, nor recommendations; I refrain from all that. I have no dogs in these fights; I cannot conceive of any way that any result in any of these races will impact on my life, but that is certainly not true for the vast majority of Jacksonville’s citizens, many of whose lives and livelihoods depends on the decisions these people make, or fail to make. You can view the full slate of candidates online, and all the special-interest groups have made their endorsements as well. And so…

Mayor: Bill Bishop (R). Alvin Brown has been an excellent mayor in his first term, in my opinion, but he’s had a very hard time making that case effectively in this campaign. Despite his overall success, his handlers have manipulated him into a series of disastrous political mistakes (most notably the HRO debacle) that are the only reason he’s had any competition at all. If he’d done things even slightly differently, he’d be cruising like Delaney in 1999 or Peyton in 2007. Instead, he’s fighting for his career against two other strong candidates, Bishop and Curry. I’m voting for Bishop not because of anything he says, because it doesn’t matter what any of them say; they will do what they’re told, and what that will be is beyond my pay-grade. I like the way he’s run a new-style campaign, embracing disparate elements of the electorate in a way that presented a real threat to the local leadership of both major parties, both of which are played-out, mediocre and ineffective. The fact that Democrats and Republican elites basically joined forces to try and shut down Bishop, by any means necessary (including all kinds of dirty tricks that we’ll just not mention), speaks to his potential, as does the fact that nothing has managed to slow his momentum over the past couple of months. Lenny Curry is a nice guy, but he’s a functionary, not a leader; he represents a bunch of bad people who pushed him into launching a fusillade of negative mailers that did him no favors. Brown deserves to be reelected, and when he makes the run-off he’ll probably get my vote. But if he is to be defeated, Bill Bishop is the credible alternative.

Sheriff: Ken Jefferson (D). The dirty secret here is that local Democrats are so weak, Jefferson will probably lose, but through no fault of his own. He pulled good numbers against outgoing sheriff John Rutherford in 2011, despite local Dems assiduously underfunding him, for reasons probably more about tactical incompetence that any kind of bigotry. All seven candidates are talented veterans of the department, and in theory any of them would be good at the job, but Jefferson’s media skills will be useful in representing an organization that will probably be under continual FBI investigation for the rest of this decade. Rutherford has endorsed Greg Anderson, but Jimmy Holderfield looks strong. The real question of the 2015 elections is why Rutherford didn’t run for mayor himself, but I’m sure he had his reasons. There are lots of issues that needed discussion in this particular race, and many questions that needed answering. But all of us in local media made the spontaneous and unrelated decision to stand down on all of it, by popular mandate of the audience. In fact, this is probably the last time I will ever mention the police department in print, in any capacity. It’s just not something to be discussed, and maybe that’s for the better.

Property Appraiser and Tax Collector are crucial positions in city government, and the fact that those spots will be won outright by longtime professional politicians (Jerry Holland and Michael Corrigan), Republicans who had no opposition at all, says all you need to know about how this city works, not to mention how the Democratic Party fails to work. You would think there’d at least be some kind of quid-pro-quo for laying and conceding such key spots to the opposition, but that’s not how they do things. They just lay down, because winning has not been a consideration for them for an entire generation. Brown’s victory in 2011 had nothing to do with his party; it was about his own skillful manipulation of a fractured Republican base (because the only real priority in 2011 was stopping Audrey Moran, for reasons that make no sense, but which I’m sure Bill Bishop can empathize with these days) and his ability to win support of a handful of wealthy powerbrokers.

City Council Districts:

1: Joyce Morgan (D). I’ve often noted–in all seriousness–that our city would immediately and dramatically improve if all our elected officials were fired and replaced with local news anchors. This is a chance to prove that.

2: Lisa King (D)

3: I don’t care. When I say that about these council races, it’s not to be taken as an insult to the candidates. It’s just that I’m not a fan of the city council, in general, and I think their collective role in local politics over the past decade or more has been overwhelmingly negative. So, in certain cases, I happily support people whom I think would be great councilfolk, but by and large I don’t think it matters.

4: Ramon Day (D). One of the most talented candidates running this year, on any level. If he loses, that’s an embarrassment to the city–which, of course, means he will probably lose.

5: I don’t care. Lori Boyer (R) runs unopposed.

6: I don’t care.

7: James Eddy (D). Eddy is one of the many candidates who have expressed support for an inclusive HRO, and one of the few who isn’t lying when he says that. But it’s all academic, since the HRO is most likely dead forever. This is what happens when you don’t stand up to bullies.

8: I don’t care. In this singular case, I say that because there are several good candidates, so it’s almost impossible for voters in District 8 to make a bad choice, which speaks well of a community that doesn’t get a lot of good publicity.

9: Glorious Johnson (D)

10: I don’t care.

11: I don’t care. Danny Becton (R) runs unopposed, so it’s whatever.

12: Abner Davis (D)

13: I don’t care. Bill Gulliford (R) runs unopposed.

14: Jason Tetlak (D). Incumbent Jim Love beat me in 2011, but that’s fine. He’s a good guy, a skilled politician and he will surely stomp Tetlak tomorrow–which is too bad. Tetlak brought it on himself by refusing outside contributions; he probably thought that would endear him to the electorate, but he was wrong. The last either party wants is for someone to succeed who is not on the take, so wrecking him was important. He has a future in politics, but it doesn’t start tomorrow.

City Council At-Large Districts:

1: Anna Brosche (R). A lot of people hate incumbent Kimberly Daniels, which I find ridiculous, but whatever. It’s another case in which progressive interests are best-served by voting Republican, because the Democrats are just so caught up in their losing-on-purpose gimmick that the real political debate in this city now occurs among factions of the increasingly (and refreshingly) fractious GOP.

2: John Crescimbeni (D). Controversial? Yep. But it doesn’t matter. The incumbent will walk away with this election, and has a strong chance of being mayor someday, unless someone pays him not to run. Whoever wins the mayor’s race will need to put a priority on keeping him happy, for their own sake.

3: Tommy Hazouri (D). Mincy Pollock is cool, and I had a couple of friends who tried and failed to run for this spot. But at the end of the day, you don’t vote against Tommy Hazouri; the mere thought is laughable.

4: I don’t care. But the LGBT community endorses Juanita Powell-Williams (D) over Greg Anderson (R), and so that’s good enough for me. This is a good place to make a note: The LGBT community has been ruthlessly used, abused, exploited and extorted by all sides, such that their own political power is shadow of what it could have been. Blame starts with the leadership, who chose personal gain over protecting the interests of their constituents. The HRO debacle was largely of their making–first, by allowing transgenders to be thrown under the bus, in hopes of getting a watered-down version passed, and second by actually believing that a watered-down HRO was going to pass. All it did was show the trans community that their own political leaders view them as a separate class within the constituency, and that their rights were a secondary concern. It also showed the bigots and hatemongers that the LGBT community could be bullied into submission. The mayor double-crossed them, and now they have no actual champion, which sucks.

5: Michelle Tappouni (R). Ju’Coby Pittman (D) is a longtime family friend, but Tappouni is a personal friend, so that’s that. Good luck to everyone, candidates and voters alike–you’ll need it!

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About Shelton Hull

I'm a writer/journalist with over 20 years experience covering all types of subject-matter, with a specialization in politics, music, food and dance. My work has been published in nearly 40 different magazines, newspapers, websites and zines, in addition to occasional forays into radio, TV and spoken-word. Former candidate for City Council District 14 in Jacksonville, FL (2011), and a proud member of Gator Nation.

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