Alvin Brown leads in Jacksonville – What does it mean?

Mayor_Alvin_BrownDespite what the naysayers might claim, Democrats do have life in the State of Florida. Big city mayors and city council elections have long been a key to the party’s revival in the state. It could be argued however that Democrats have done little with this assembled bench as the hole the party faces seemingly gets deeper and deeper at the state level.

The Jacksonville’s Mayor’s Election provides a unique opportunity. Should Alvin Brown be reelected, Democrats would likely have a statewide figure of note even without holding a statewide office. A reelected African-American Democratic Mayor in a city that was long characterized by racial politics would be a story of national importance. Brown led yesterday’s Primary and will face off with Lenny Curry, the former RPOF Chairman in May’s General Election.

Jacksonville was long Florida’s most important city politically. Unlike Miami, it wasn’t completely out of step ideologically with the rest of the state, and produced Democrats who were in some regards progressive on economics but held the established party line on racial matters and social issues. Eventually the South Florida city eclipsed Jacksonville in import beginning with liberal Miami Mayor Robert King High’s 1966 Democratic Primary victory over Governor Haydon Burns who had been a moderately conservative Mayor and then Governor (and of course a segregationist). High lost the General Election to Republican Claude Kirk then of Jacksonville, and in the process became the first Democrat to lose a statewide election in Florida since the Reconstruction era.

But as Florida embraced progressive Democrats  and environmentalism in the 1970’s, Jacksonville lost its political clout. Miami began to dominate the statewide cabinet and the Democratic Party. Eventually, Jacksonville was eclipsed by Tampa as well.  Steve Pajcic, a then liberal State Representative and prominent Trial Lawyer was nominated for Governor by the Democrats in 1986 – and he represents the last serious statewide Democratic candidate from what was once Florida’s leading city.

In time, Tampa became the vogue political city for Democrats as Miami and Jacksonville shifted to the Republicans while liberal Broward and Palm Beach counties were well out of the statewide mainstream. Central Florida shifted from the state’s most Republican region to more Democratic. Miami has begun to shift back, but often Jacksonville gets forgotten.

In the 1980’s Jacksonville’s electorate became remarkably racially polarized and white voters began shifting towards the GOP en masse even at the local level before most southern cities. While it took a long time for voter registration among whites to shift to the GOP, by the late 1980’s Jacksonville had only a few white Democrats left in office and by the mid 1990’s virtually none were left. The city also became a place where candidates associated with big business and the insurance industry could thrive.

But here is what has happened in Jacksonville since 1995 – Nat Glover’s 1995 election as Sheriff allowed the city to overcome some of its racial demons while Mayor John Delaney also elected that year provided a more responsible and governing style of conservatism than what many Republicans wanted. Younger, trendy white communities like the Riverside area have become more progressive and provide a base for Democratic candidates.

Jacksonville isn’t quite like the other urban areas of the state yet, but the demographic shifts and changes in attitudes that have taken place make the city a potential problem for Republicans. Brown’s strong showing in Tuesday’s Primary indicates that Jacksonville is well on its way to becoming a permanently competitive two-party city. If the Mayor can hang on to his office come May, the Democrats will have made an area Republicans must win in much more volatile electorally.

 

14 comments

  1. The future · · Reply

    He’s a republican himself. The type of “moderate” this state party loves to promote!

  2. Once REP’s that voted for Bishop switch to Curry, looks like Brown could come up short, I sure hope he can beat Lenny Curry. If every DEM in Duval gets behind him and GOTV he might beat Curry. 78,320 Votes he needs 30,000 -50,000 more

  3. Few over the Many · · Reply

    Brown is the perfect Fla Dem Party leader. Moderate, pro-business and unwilling to take strong stands.

    This is why we lose.

  4. dianecbrown · · Reply

    “Despite what the naysayers might claim, Democrats do have life in the State of Florida.’

    Hilarious!!!! And who is the biggest naysayer about the FL Dem party? Why, Mr. Krishnaiyer, hands down.

    1. Jonathan · · Reply

      Diane, do you not see the record of this party in elections? I think Kartik is in fact TOO SOFT. I am not the only one who thinks that either. He’s totally down the middle on party criticisms which is in some ways worthless!

    2. A Florida Democrat · · Reply

      Diane you are crazy. If anything Kartik has gone too native advocating for phony rules reform and claiming Allison Tant has done alright. Six House loses and losing every statewide race! That’s alright? I like Kartik’s writing but he’s getting compromised as this article promoting the right-wing Alvin Brown shows.

      – A (POED) Florida Democrat

      1. Agree.

        This is a nice history lesson but the ultimate takeaway is Kartik’s promotion of the FDP candidate who is a homophobe who would not even endorse Obama!

      2. dianecbrown · ·

        Florida, you and Jonathan are having a problem with comprehension. My post did NOT defend nor support in anyway the Fl party. It simply pointed out the irony in Mr.Krishnaiyer’s writings.

  5. John Harris · · Reply

    I hope Brown wins but please do not claim this is some sort of reversal of a long standing trend of losing by this state party.

  6. wvayens · · Reply

    Alvin Brown’s unwillingness to stand up for LGBT anti-discrimination leaves me cold. His inability to get more than 50% despite the FDP pouring over $1 million into his campaigns leave me speechless. Imaging what we could have done with this money to help the DEM house members who were defeated in November.

  7. salsagator · · Reply

    Brown is not my idea of a Democratic Mayor. But in his defense, he didn’t run that way either; and he has kept his promises. I don’t consider him a viable statewide candidate. He’s not a natural politician; one on one or or the stump. His top staff choices have been abysmal. There are rumors that the Democratic powers that be will put a lot of money into this race and he will need them to win. As always racial politics will be a major factor. Mayor Brown and our very well qualified candidate for Sheriff, Ken Jefferson are both black and will be at the top of the ticket. In the primary the GOP ran Willie Horton-style anti-crime adds against the Mayor that would make Lee Atwater proud. I suspect they will do the same in the general, but include bad pictures of Jefferson, in addition to Brown.

  8. salsagator · · Reply

    One thing Brown will have working for him is that much of Bishop’s support came from the more progressive Avondale/Riverside area. These are folks who tend for vote Democrats, but Brown will have to turn him out. A lot of folks, like me, are unmotivated to turnout for a milquetoast Democrats like Brown. I, of course will vote, but it will take effort to turn out the rest of them. Well, effort, and/or an endorsement from Bishop.

  9. sandyo4era · · Reply

    You denigrate the First Amendment’s freedom of speach componanet by refusing to post my real and ontarget posts.

    SO , RIGHT NOW , UNSBUSCRIBE ME, you traitors of democracy!

    sandyo

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