PerspectivesA.G. Gancarski Jacksonville Today Contributor
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, center, and Jax Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis, left, rub shoulders in 2018. | WJCT News

OPINION | The ‘resign to run’ trap

Published on November 20, 2022 at 11:08 am
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I’ve written about politics in this town for many years and expressed my share of frustrations, including with candidates running for higher office while still an incumbent.

The most glaring example of that obviously has been mayoral races, where a member of the City Council runs more often than not. When candidacy and incumbency converge, it raises questions about what benefits those candidates get just by being in office currently.

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I brought that up as early as 2021, when Matt Carlucci was running for mayor. Carlucci stood down and is running for re-election to Council, but two other GOP City Council members, LeAnna Cumber and Al Ferraro, are on the dais and running campaigns. 

Polling so far hasn’t shown a particular benefit for either candidate. The latest University of North Florida survey had Cumber at 6% and Ferraro at 4%. 

In an example of utterly unscientific polling, meanwhile, I posed the question on Twitter in September about whether Duval should require elected officials to resign immediately when becoming a candidate for another office. Over 60% of respondents said yes, but only 80 people responded, suggesting that the issue doesn’t resonate with a lot of voters. 

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Even though the matter didn’t light up my sleepy Twitter account, Mayor Lenny Curry is betting on it, introducing a bill that would put “resign to run” in front of voters as a non-binding straw ballot in March. Council would not be governed by it, in other words, without the state Legislature adding the measure to the city charter. 

But despite being non-binding, the Curry proposal would loom over the 2023 campaign nonetheless.

“Should elected officials resign from (their) current post when they announce a run for a new position? Let the voters decide,” Curry exhorted last week.

As he explained to WJXT: “I’ve seen too many times where people bounce from one office to another from City Council to constitutional offices, to state Legislature and back. And while there are many good people (who) have served their entire careers, if you will, in elected office, I just think ‘resign to run’ is the right thing to do.”

One of those perennial elected officials, Property Appraiser Jerry Holland, told WJXT that he was “baffled” by the proposal. (Holland is running for his old position as supervisor of elections in 2023, it should be noted).

But any student of the Curry era shouldn’t be surprised, given he has marketed himself as an alternative to the entrenched political class.

It’s useful to remember Curry’s own branding as “not a politician” when he was running for this same office eight years ago. 

The former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Curry used that branding as a cudgel in 2015, running against an incumbent Democratic mayor and one Republican City Council member who ended up on the ballot despite Curry’s work to close the field. 

The 2019 election was the zenith of Curry’s political capital, and the Democrats didn’t bother to run opposition, even after a 2018 election when a number of Democrats won countywide. His main opponent was Republican Anna Lopez Brosche, who ran for Curry’s job after being elected City Council president. 

Next year, Curry is not on the ballot, of course. Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce CEO Daniel Davis is the mayor’s strongly preferred replacement, and it’s worth noting that Davis probably could have parlayed his former post in the state House into a mayoral run back in 2015. Davis, who was accused of double-dipping by continuing to draw the Chamber salary while running for mayor, is able to take the moral and fiscal high ground on this measure.

Thus, “resign to run” functions in this case as an in-kind contribution to the Davis campaign. And don’t think Curry isn’t aware of that. 

Despite that seemingly transparent intent, the existence of this measure creates a double bind for Council members on the ballot in 2023. These include Republican Danny Becton and Democrat Joyce Morgan, both of whom are running for property appraiser against now former Rep. Jason Fischer. Could Fischer’s team demagogue this issue until May? The question answers itself.

It can’t be overstated that it literally does not matter whether the “resign to run” straw ballot passes. But the discussion is perfectly timed to provide political headaches for anyone on the Council dais who wants to parlay that gig into a promotion, forcing them to answer the question of why they keep wanting the taxpayers to fund their lifestyles.

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor email A.G. Gancarski has been the Northeast Florida correspondent for Florida Politics since 2014. He writes for the New York Post and National Review also, with previous work in the American Conservative and Washington Times and a 15+ year run as a columnist in Folio Weekly.

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