The 2015 Jacksonville mayoral race has, up until now, been a three-man race. The incumbent, Alvin Brown, who is still polling well, but who has taken heat from many supporters last time around for an overly conservative approach to policy discussions (most notably the squelched Human Rights Ordinance). Former Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry, the consummate insider Republican and local kingmaker Peter Rummell’s choice, who has done a great job fundraising and setting himself up as the most logical general election opponent for the incumbent. Bill Bishop, the Republican former City Council president, who might be short on funds but by far has been the most candid person in the race this time around.
Could there be a fourth candidate soon? An open secret all autumn has been that Mike Hogan, the 2011 Republican candidate for mayor, is considering jumping into the race. Fanning the flames most notably: his son, Joseph Hogan, on Twitter, who in recent weeks has been teasing his father’s entry into the race.
Even at this late date, months after all of the other major candidates have announced, Hogan scares people and would make a formidable challenger. And the first person to tell you that would be his son.
Curious if the recent tweets from Joseph meant an announcement was imminent, I asked him. Joseph Hogan was predictably coy.
“I currently have no beans to spill,” Hogan the Younger told me. That said, he told me that “there are a significant number of influential people encouraging him to run.”
In part, because they have a problem with Curry, who has been reluctant to take positions on hot-button issues locally because of the threat of Hogan jumping into the race and outflanking him on the Tea Party right. But Hogan’s adherents are “more focused on his ability to be a great city leader” and to “fix key issues.”
These supporters, who went unnamed, “don’t see that from others now in” the race.
Last time around, Hogan got a lot of support from the Jacksonville Business Community, a nexus of political support reminiscent of the good-ol’-boy network Jake Godbold tapped into decades before. At least one of those supporters, sources tell me, launched into an obscenity-laced tirade when he was asked if he’d support Hogan a second time around.
Part of the reason was Hogan’s failure to control messaging, playing to the socially conservative right in regrettable ways. One such incident: joking during a campaign stop about how bombing an abortion clinic “may cross my mind,” then justifying it with “I’m not going to be politically correct. That was a joke. This was an audience for this. This is a Catholic church.”
Despite (or perhaps because of) this tendency to say things that more moderate and message-driven candidates would never say, Hogan has a lot of grassroots support. People like him and know him in the community. And at least one current candidate, who this writer spoke to on background, sees his entry as a real possibility. And if Hogan does run, funding won’t be an issue.
“I have heard he is still considering running,” said his potential opponent. “He does have a group of long-time supporters that were very upset that he didn’t win last time who still hope he runs again. Not sure just how big a group that is, but some certainly have money they would put in.”
That said, his potential opponent adds, “there were a lot of people upset over how his campaign was run.” He’s not sure if Hogan has time to build a viable organization, running against two candidates with over a million dollars raised already. Ultimately, says my source, Hogan “will have to make that call.”
Given that Hogan’s announcement has been rumored for months, it is no sure thing that he will make that call. Perhaps some indication will be given after the Duval County Republican Party elects new officers this month. Given that two officers are standing down for re-election, after the @jaxgop Ferguson Tweet Scandal, the GOP may want to avoid hard-right candidates who throw rhetorical bombs from time to time. Then again, Hogan’s supporters may not give the Republican Party a choice in the matter.