PerspectivesAndrew Moss Jacksonville Today Contributor
State Rep. Dean Black of Jacksonville.State Rep. Dean Black of Jacksonville.
State Rep. Dean Black of Jacksonville.

OPINION | Love him or hate him, Dean Black continues to shape the narrative

Published on November 27, 2023 at 9:26 pm
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During this new era of Jacksonville politics, one with a divided government and Mayor Donna Deegan still struggling to get much of her agenda through, one local Republican continues to shape the narrative: state Rep. and Duval GOP Chairman Dean Black.

In many ways, Rep. Black is the polar opposite of what Deegan campaigned on. Deegan’s election promised to usher in an era of liberal governance at City Hall. “Hope,” “change for good,” and, of course, “love” are the new platitudes of the day under Jacksonville’s “change agent” Democrat mayor.

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I published my thoughts on Deegan’s disconnect related to these promises here.

On the other hand, Black represents the ultra-safe-Republican state House seat for Nassau and the far reaches of rural North and West Duval County. A rancher, farmer, and local businessman by trade, Black’s loud, booming voice and preacher-esque speaking style perfectly match his conservative politics.

In his short time in the Legislature, Black has made a habit – and thoroughly enjoys – ruffling the feathers of various Democratic constituentcies. His crucial achievement last year, HB 1445, or the “Paycheck Protection” bill, cracked down on Florida teachers’ unions by, among other things, banning automatic deduction from employee paychecks for union dues.

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The Donna Deegan/Dean Black relationship was destined to be rocky. In late August, in a desperate attempt to save her doomed appointee for general counsel, Deegan hosted a press conference that stunned even her closest allies. The mayor blamed her favorite boogeymen for her troubles (consultant Tim Baker and former Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes) and, bizarrely, Black.

She claimed that Black told her in a private conversation that “anybody who didn’t support the Republican standard-bearer in the last election should never get another Republican vote.”

Remember that in addition to serving as a state legislator, Black is chairman of the Republican Party of Duval County. Republicans who defect to support Democrats, by definition and according to his job description, are his political enemies. For Black, the longest-serving local GOP Chair in 50 years – who last year announced his current term would be his last – the new mayor’s comments were the political equivalent of putting the ball on the tee for him.

On many of the issues of consequence since, Black – not Deegan – has led the conversation.

Deegan campaigned heavily on removing the “Women of the Southland” monument in Springfield Park. But now in office, her exact plan on what to do remains a mystery and is starting to sound like Nixon’s secret plan to end the Vietnam War.

Black, on the other hand, took the reins of the conversation. His proposal, along with co-introducer Rep. Webster Barnaby and Senate co-sponsor Jonathan Martin, would protect not only the Springfield monument but all historical monuments and memorials in Florida and potentially punish local elected officials for violating that law.

Additionally, when Deegan became the first mayor to serve as Grand Marshal at the River City Pride Parade earlier this year, Black – wait for it – rained on the mayor’s parade. He riled up the right wing and sounded the alarm about condoms being thrown at children during the event. “To have our mayor participate in an event that was sexualizing children is wrong,” Black said at the time.

On the most significant foreign policy development in the last decade, Black – not Deegan – led a pro-Israel rally on the steps of City Hall. Hundreds gathered during a humid Florida afternoon and in the face of a dozen Pro-Palestinian counter-protestors to hear Black and other Republican elected officials stress their support for Israel. Deegan, by contrast, released a brief statement three days after the Hamas attack and has been largely silent on the matter since.

Liberals will roll their eyes at Black’s messaging, but he speaks to a clear and still vast conservative electorate in Jacksonville.

At the same time, mayors historically have used the “bully pulpit” to get their agendas seen by the masses. But one must wonder, how did Deegan let Dean Black steal that pulpit from her?

Lead photo: Rep. Dean Black questions a presenter at a committee meeting on Jan. 26, 2023 | Florida House of Representatives

author image Jacksonville Today Contributor

Andrew Moss is a lawyer who has resided in Jacksonville for over two decades. After returning home from his service in the Marines, Andrew has been involved in Republican political campaigns for over a decade, serving as a communications and legal advisor.

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