Tougher Time For Repubs in Coming Elections?

By: Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida
By: Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida


The first African-American mayor in the history of Jacksonville and the first Democrat to be elected to the city’s top post in two decades comes into office raising questions about whether his win could portend tougher times for Republicans in what has been a staunchly conservative county.

In a narrow and ultimately surprising race for mayor of the state's geographically largest city, Democrat Alvin Brown defeated Republican opponent Mike Hogan in the second round of elections Tuesday. The race had been closely followed because of the potential that Brown could win the office in what is often a cornerstone for GOP statewide campaigns.

In a press conference in Jacksonville on Thursday morning, Brown sought to play down the political significance of his victory.
“This win isn’t about party,” he said. ‘This victory was about Jacksonville and its future. My campaign was nonpartisan. My administration will be bipartisan.”
But with a presidential election in little more than a year, the first Democratic win in Jacksonville in 20 years quickly stirred questions about whether the reliably red county might be taking on a more purple hue. Brown’s victory raises concerns because Duval County was critical to Gov. Rick Scott’s 2010 victory -- the county accounted for almost a quarter of his margin of victory against then-CFO Alex Sink.

Local experts, however, urged caution Thursday, saying Brown’s victory may not portend a fundamental electoral shift.

“I don’t think we’re sort of heading for a new Democratic dominance of Duval County,” said Matthew Corrigan, a political-science professor at the University of North Florida.
While the contest could signal some trouble for Scott, there were unique threads running through the campaign for mayor. Hogan’s campaign, and the candidate himself, had their share of flaws. In one infamous episode, Hogan joked that he wouldn’t bomb an abortion clinic, “but it may cross my mind,” he’s quoted in an account of the event in the Florida Times-Union.

Hogan also pushed back against efforts to revitalize downtown development, scaring some business supporters that often back Republicans into the camp of Brown, a relatively conservative Democrat, and gave the underdog’s campaign access to more fundraising.

“Not only did it hurt him with votes, but it hurt him with money,” said Jake Godbold, Democratic mayor of the city in the 1980s who tepidly backed Hogan in the second round of voting.

The fundraising helped Brown piece together a coalition that included Democrats, independents and some among the Republican-friendly business community.

“They felt that they could work with Mayor-elect Brown and he understood their concerns,” said Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville, a supporter.

While voting was up in the county’s heavily black districts, Brown also did well in somewhat diverse but largely white areas that had voted for some Republicans eliminated in the first round, said Mario Piscatella, a local political consultant. In three of those districts, Brown’s share went from 11 percent in the first round to 40 percent in the second.

Some observers overtones for the coming presidential election in the results of the voting. Rep. Mike Weinstein called the race “a wake-up call for both sides,” indicating that future races in Duval could be financially and logistically hard-fought. He said national parties began paying more attention to the race after the first round of voting narrowed the field down to Hogan and Brown.

“It became a Republican-Democrat stepping-off point for 2012,” said Weinstein, R-Jacksonville. “It became a very different election in the last six weeks.”
Piscatella said Brown’s victory signaled that Democrats can do better in Duval and that Obama might be able to fare as well as he did in 2008, a critical piece of the formula for winning Florida’s trove of electoral votes.

“At the very least, he can get the same 48, 49 percent he got last time, and that probably decides the statewide election,” Piscatella said.

Others are more skeptical.

“Obama will be on his own,” Godbold said. “This is a very conservative town.”

But Corrigan said state politics might have shaped the race in some ways, as state Republicans’ budget plans to slice education spending helped Brown’s decision to push education as an issue in the campaign.

“Rick Scott may have hurt Hogan in this race,” Corrigan said. “ ... I think there’s more of a connection for the governor-mayor race than there is for the presidential-mayor race.”

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  • by granny Location: Live Oak on May 20, 2011 at 05:59 PM
    don't bank on it !
  • by William Location: San Diego on May 20, 2011 at 02:40 PM
    Its really not the GOP if you really want to know the truth,they are a bunch of extremists who are masquerading under the disguise as GOP,because its a well-known name and normal people will shrug it off as one of the Good Ole' Boys shrew behaviors outburst.Its goes a lot deeper than that,these are the 'Sovereign Citizens Movement,'these people will sell their soul to the devil,just to control this country.People need to get theirs head out of the sand and listen clearly to what these people are saying before it too late and they have taken all your worldly mean of existence.
  • by Thom on May 20, 2011 at 01:54 PM
    Tea Partiers are going to "all-or-nothing" the Republican party to death. Compromise is the bedrock of a true democratic republic, and a sign of true intellectual competency. The Tea Partiers do not believe in compromise, so who is UN-American???
  • by me Location: tally on May 20, 2011 at 01:20 PM
    Jacksonville is going the way of big liberal Detroit...Chicago...etc. And you all wear that as a badge of honor(laughing)? No, the writing is on the wall and the productive people are moving to the burbs.
  • by Mike in FL on May 20, 2011 at 11:17 AM
    Yes, the GOP is going to have a MUCH harder time nationwide. The party as a whole has moved farther to the right, alienating the moderate center and forcing it to side with the Democrats. It's leadership in various states has come down as hostile to workers (Maine), anti-gay (Wisconsin) and anti-woman (Florida). Also here in FL, we have GOP members repeatedly trying to sneak their religious beliefs into science classrooms (Stephen R Wise of Jacksonville) and the passage of a bill that basically restricts voting access.
  • by Anonymous Location: Tally on May 20, 2011 at 10:41 AM
    Max, the Republican party won the civil war. What party do you think Lincoln was a member of. duh
  • by Max on May 20, 2011 at 10:01 AM
    the republicans are simply still bitter about losing the civil war and having slavery ended.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on May 20, 2011 at 11:05 AM in reply to Max
      President Lincoln was a republican, therefore republicans were on the winning side ofthe civil war.
      • reply
        by Max on May 20, 2011 at 12:40 PM in reply to
        you should do some more research on exactly what the republican party meant and stood for back then. The south has never approved for civil or equal rights of non whites.
    • reply
      by ;>) on May 20, 2011 at 01:01 PM in reply to Max
      Max, thank you. You couldn't have shown it any better...I applaud your ignorance.
  • by Jay Location: Over Round Home on May 20, 2011 at 09:55 AM
    I lived over round home in Jax and trust me this is big news. Since the big shift to the republican party in the 60's this has been a good ole boy strong hold. But it would appear those days are over. Rick has done for Fl what george and dick did for the nation, lost elections. Elections have consequence and the people of FL don't like it. 2012 lets do it again
  • by Bill Location: Florida on May 20, 2011 at 09:20 AM
    Hey Sarah . . if all you call do is throw mud and tell lies . . You and your whole party have proven themselves to be a bunch of hypocritical clowns. Repub governors cutting everyone's pay & benefits . . but their own. Seems like a millionaire that ran for a $300 K job . . could pay for his own healthcare benefits . . . or maybe he just likes to rip off yours. Smoke em' if you got em ' Vote for them if you like em'
  • by Bill Location: Florida on May 20, 2011 at 09:07 AM
    Republicans & tea party types have proven themselves to be bigots and hypocrites. Cut the policeman's pay, the teacher's pay, and deny the manthat works at his restaurant Soc. Security and Medicare. Have you heard 1, I mind you 1 ! say he would attack waste and corruption . . No ! That would step on the toes of their lobbyists . .
    • reply
      by Logical Thinking on May 20, 2011 at 09:59 AM in reply to Bill
      "Republicans & tea party types have proven themselves to be bigots and hypocrites", please enlighten us with your knowlege on this? Or are you just trying to smear an entire party with your liberal lies?
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