This article is my perspective about the 2015 Jacksonville Mayoral & City Council Campaigns. It is the second article in a special series profiling the upcoming Primary & General Elections.
As the politicos jump head first into the maelstrom that is Jacksonville campaigning and with the start of Early Voting on March 9, it is interesting to see how the personalities of the candidates come in to focus on our TV, PC, and smart phone screens. You name it-these candidates are going there….whether it’s a bar in 5 Points, the successful Ballots & Brews Young Voters Gathering, the staid forums at business people’s associations-they are “pressing the flesh” as President Lyndon Johnson used to say. But in a city of over 800,000 people it is incredibly hard. Those with lots of money can fill the airwaves on TV & Radio with ads-those who don’t can in addition to retail campaigning can only communicate their visions through the social media.
As a busy professional, I can take advantage of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram on my own time to get a better idea of who these folks are and what they want to do for Jacksonville. I am thankful for my DVR at home, that enables me to fast forward thru the Republican Party’s vile ad about Mayor Brown. While most people are jaded about national and state politics-seeing an unflattering picture of The Mayor painted in red scowling as crime statistics are recited comes off as a little too close to home. In the world of these ads-the City Council and 3 Term Sheriff John Rutherford have no role in effective crime prevention policies in the city. It has all the signs of Mayoral Candidate & former State GOP Money Man Lenny Curry (R) (endorsed by the Duval Republican Organization) as being an empty suit-empty of ideas with no choice but to tear down the other man. It is good to know though that the other candidates-Mayor Alvin Brown (D), Councilman Bill Bishop (R) and Omega Allen (I) are running positive campaigns chocked full of ideas. Eventually Curry may sort out his approach, but first impressions can really have an impact and time is at a premium.
During times like these I understand why the mantra of “Let’s Get Money Out of Politics” must be repeated over and over until we can get action on it. People like Bishop and Allen in the Mayor’s Race and various Council Candidates can’t get access to the airwaves unless the TV & Radio stations open up time for debates and forums which unfortunately people may or may not watch depending on what’s going on with their work, kids, or competing entertainment options-and so in close races-the ability for the candidates to make solid and positive impressions on the voters on the social media platforms is critical for victory now more than ever.
Big Money is rearing it’s ugly head in something we don’t think a lot about-Endorsements by Big Lobbying Organizations whose strategy is only to support well funded candidates with the rationale that they don’t want to spend their resources to back a “lost cause”. District 14 Council candidate Jason Tetlak discussed this in an interview with one of our TV Stations. He is up against incumbent Jim Love in the Riverside area. So with this-we essentially end up with the “Wal-Mart” Model of Campaigns. Big money candidates flourish and small money candidates do not because they are written off from Day 1 by the people that can make things happen.
People who love the city and have plans to make it better for current and future generations deserve the opportunity to have a fair shot in the elections. If they do not get it then it will have negative results in the future. It will discourage people from running but in the end we deserve what we get. There is hope though. Smart, passionate, and persistent candidates can do an end run around Big Money. The key is to for the candidates to reach people where they are with their message. Especially in Council races-we could see things turn. If this happens-we could have some amazing progressive folks on the Council who could really bring change to this city. Early Voting in The Open Primary begins on March 9. Primary Day is March 24. The General Election is on May 19.
George Farrar, February 22, 2015
George Farrar is a Progressive filmmaker and commentator who has lived most of his life in Jacksonville, of which 16 of those years he has lived on The Westside where he currently resides.