Heavy hitters from both parties are descending on Jacksonville, FL to weigh in on the race for the mayor’s office in what some observers are calling a key battle in the 2016 Presidential landscape.
Florida has been a key swing state since the “hanging chad” election of 2000. And Jacksonville has been ground zero for the battle to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes.
Florida is considered one of the most important pieces in winning the White House as the largest of swing states. While Miami is the state’s largest metropolitan area, Jacksonville’s mayor serves all of Duval County, which has about 900,000 residents. Duval County and has played a role in recent presidential elections. Without it, George W. Bush wouldn’t have won in 2000, when he carried Florida by 537 votes and Duval County by 44,234 votes. He carried Duval in 2004 by 61,586 votes.
But President Obama targeted Jacksonville in 2008 and 2012 with the goal of making a solidly Republican area more competitive. About 30 percent of the city is black, or roughly double the statewide average. Obama’s campaign substantially increased black voter registration and turnout and cut the Republican margin of victory Bush saw here by tens of thousands of votes. John McCain won Duval by less than 8,000 in 2008 and Mitt Romney carried it by fewer than 15,000 in 2012. Obama carried the state.
Rick Perry, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are all helping the Republican candidate former state Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry take on the Democrat incumbent Alvin Brown. Bill Clinton has hosted a fundrasier for Brown.
The race is considered too close to call and has been nasty. Curry, an accountant, is using a report that found more than $500 million in accounting errors to blame Brown for being fiscally irresponsible, though the report found the errors began long before Brown took office. Curry also blamed Brown for rising crime.
“We should all be angry, we should all be upset, we should all be mourning,” Curry told a small group of business owners. “We had lost the distinction of the murder capital in the state of Florida. Our violent crime has now spiked over the last three years, the murder rate is now back up.”
Brown says Curry is a hyper-partisan who won’t govern in the best interests of all city residents. He’s accused Curry of trying to suppress the black vote when he was the state GOP chairman, pointing at cuts in early voting days and other changes ahead of the 2012 presidential election that critics said made it more difficult for minorities to vote.
While most Americans are passive observers at best of the 2016 Presidential contest, the insiders are clearly already jockeying for every advantage however slight. A couple thousand swing in votes from Jacksonville may be the difference in November 2016,