PerspectivesA.G. Gancarski Jacksonville Today Contributor

Opinion: Crowded field could mean chaos for Jax mayoral race

Published on September 11, 2022 at 8:36 pm
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Photo: WJCT News

The public phase of the mayoral campaign of Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis, who didn’t quit his day job for this run, kicked off last Thursday at a trucking company on the Westside.

The vibe was retro. The loud, optimistic country songs were interchangeable and on a seeming loop. There was no AC in the warehouse-style showroom space, except for some portable cooling fans that did not substantially mitigate the heat in the moshpit of well-wishers, old friends, new allies and the perpetual crust of the gladhander lobbyists and secondary pols who make it their business to bet on a winner and leverage the deal. 

It was a perfect establishment Republican launch, with a vibe like a Rick Scott campaign launch … sort of similar to the launch of the LeAnna Cumber campaign a few months back at her husband’s Florida East Coast Industries railroad warehouse. But that’s to be expected when you have two business-wing Republicans in the same field. 

Both are pros with experienced teams who know what historically has sold in this area, and so you have two well-funded candidates (between them, they have close to $7 million on hand between campaign accounts and political committees) running in what looks like the same lane.


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The attacks are particularly spiky among the two camps. The Cumber folks needle Davis about staying on at the Chamber, and the Davis allies note that Cumber is running a heavily self-funded campaign while collecting a paycheck on the Council dais. Expect a lot of messaging between these two; they can afford it. 

We’ve seen a less consultant-friendly version of this dynamic emerge on the Democratic side of the field too, with those aligned with the Donna Deegan campaign grousing about state Sen. Audrey Gibson’s jumping into the field. Gibson knew Deegan was going to run, goes the complaint, and therefore she should have stood down.

Of course, Gibson made no secret of her own ambitions to stay in politics after she was termed out of the Senate this year. She might have run for Congress if redistricting had granted Jacksonville a Duval-only district that would have given Democrats a registration advantage, but the DeSantis-mander that split Duval blunted any real ability to elect a Democrat in that seat. But long before she filed to launch her campaign, she told Senate colleagues in Tallahassee that she was going to run for mayor.

Many observers of this field see primaries on the Democratic and Republican sides, but there is a fallacy to that premise in an open election with nine candidates and plenty of potential for variance.

Consider the 2011 mayoral race, where many assumed moderate Republicans Audrey Moran and Rick Mullaney were the “best” candidates, forgetting that they were competing in more or less the same lane. Moran and Mullaney targeted each other down the stretch toward March, and in the end the people who benefited were conservative Republican Mike Hogan and Democrat Alvin Brown, with Brown ultimately benefiting and winning in May. 

In this field, we have nine candidates, and though some lag seriously in fundraising, they nonetheless will be factors and potential chaos agents headed into the first election next March.

Many observers of the field fade City Councilman Al Ferraro, whose fundraising has lagged seriously behind Cumber and Davis. They shouldn’t. 

Ferraro has taken consistently social conservative positions, often at odds with business-wing Republicans in doing so. And expect that he will make that case as a candidate.

Another potential chaos agent is running as an independent. Omega Allen got more than 10% of the vote in 2019’s Democrat-free field running against Lenny Curry. 

There are those who don’t take her seriously as a candidate, but as the upset win of L.J. Holloway in the Democratic Congressional District 4 primary showed last month, persistence pays off for candidates who have a coherent and consistent message. Holloway had been running since 2016, and in 2022 she ran over Tony Hill.

Four Democrats, three Republicans and two independent candidates make up the field in an open election, and there are scenarios imaginable where one party or another could be shut out of the runoff. 

This field is every candidate for themselves, at least through qualifying in January, when it’s imaginable that some could bail out or others, for whatever reason, may jump in at the last minute.

A.G. Gancarski will be speaking at First Coast Tiger Bay at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the River Club, talking about the mayoral race, the just-wrapped primaries, November elections and much more. Advance reservations are available through Monday. Contact FCTigerBay@gmail.com for more information.


author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

A.G. Gancarski's columns were a staple in Folio Weekly for nearly two decades, and he has been the Northeast Florida correspondent for Florida Politics since 2014. He writes about the intersection of state and local politics and policy.

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

A.G. Gancarski's columns were a staple in Folio Weekly for nearly two decades, and he has been the Northeast Florida correspondent for Florida Politics since 2014. He writes about the intersection of state and local politics and policy.


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