While the political world is hyper-focused on the midterm elections, the day after next Tuesday’s voting opens another chapter in local politics. Nov. 9 is the day the Jacksonville mayor’s race gets real.
The major players vying for the seat are Daniel Davis, Leanna Cumber, Donna Deegan, Audrey Gibson and Al Ferraro.
Davis, the CEO of the Jax Chamber of Commerce, is the man with the money (to a certain extent) and the endorsements of the Realtors’ and builders’ PACs. I served on the Jacksonville City Council with Daniel — he is a Jacksonville guy and I hold him, and his family, in high esteem.
Cumber is somewhat of a Jacksonville outsider and has risen swiftly through Jacksonville’s political strata. She is smart, dedicated and possesses an indefatigable work ethic. In addition, she, like Davis, has amassed a campaign war chest that exudes viability.
Deegan is well known, respected and appreciated. Her dedication to and passion for Jacksonville is obvious. Although a home-grown candidate with assumedly great name recognition, Donna is somewhat of a political outsider, having never held elected office. Rather than viewing this as a liability, I believe she will embrace it as an asset and make it work in her favor.
Gibson, on the other hand, is no stranger to politics, having served in the Florida House of Representatives and then in the Florida Senate since 2002. She is a Jacksonville native and served as Minority Leader in the Florida Senate from 2018 to 2020.
Ferraro, a current Jacksonville City Councilman first elected in 2015, is also a homegrown candidate and successful local businessperson who projects a certain grass-roots political confidence. The question for Mr. Ferraro is, are the grassroots deep enough to grow citywide?
You might notice that I have not identified any party affiliation for any of the candidates. I truly don’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat or NPA, and neither should voters. This race is about Jacksonville, not party politics that are too often tainted by national and statewide considerations.
Indeed, this is why here in Duval we do not have a primary election followed by a general election for mayor. Rather, we have a “unitary” system with a first election open to candidates of any and all party affiliation. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote plus one vote in the first round, we go to a second- round election runoff between the top two vote getters in a winner-take-all showdown.
So, who will get my vote? I am looking forward to hearing the candidates’ plans of action. I do not want to hear more superficial recitation of priorities: crime, education, Downtown development. Give me something that projects insight, creativity and, most importantly, leadership.
If legacy, institutional impediments exist in our consolidated form of government, let’s identify them and come with a plan to reform and remove them. Perhaps it is time to breathe new life into the Charter Revision Commission and staff it with people who have at least a cursory understanding of Jacksonville’s government structure prior to the first meeting.
Lastly, can we please leave the culture wars at the county line and focus on Duval?
This is a lot to ask for. That said, I am hopeful. Time to buckle up for what is always a wild ride.