Lenny Curry’s ground game begins

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As snow flurries fell in parts of Duval County on Thursday, the Lenny Curry street team took its message to potential voters in the March 24 Mayoral Unitary Election, according to the candidate’s Twitter.

“Grateful for team Curry walkers out braving the cold – knocking doors! Y’all are awesome,” Tweeted the candidate, who closed with his customary #ilovejax hashtag.

Thus begins a new phase of the Curry campaign. Bolstered by well-timed national endorsements this week, the Curry operation will continue its work this weekend.

At 9:30 AM this Saturday, Curry volunteers will meet at Curry’s campaign headquarters on Beach Boulevard on the Southside – just a short walk from the Duval County Republican Party’s headquarters – to “call voters and canvass neighborhoods in support of a better Jacksonville.”

Volunteers are exhorted to “come when you can and leave when you must”, and, as further inducement, lunch will be served.

This event leads in to an event next week, on January 14 – a Campaign Kickoff at the same headquarters. The Lenny Curry for Mayor Facebook page urges interested parties to “Join Lenny and the campaign team at headquarters as we kick-off the new year and the campaign. Come help Lenny ‘Build Something that Lasts.’”

The Curry operation clearly is building momentum, even as the Brown operation seems slow to start. Dave Beattie is effectively running the campaign, in the sense of handling reporter inquiries, but the campaign seems to be without a website or much else in the way of an overt messaging machine.

Brown partisans bristle at characterizations of their candidate’s campaign as slow to start, with one telling this writer, “show me a candidate who peaks 2 ½ months before the election and I’ll show you a loser.”

It is an open question why the Brown operation has yet to fully launch. The campaign has raised more than $1,650,000 to date, as of last month’s numbers. Some speculate that the operation is holding its fire until after the March unitary election, building up to the expected runoff election on May 19, in which Brown would feature unless Curry scores a majority in March.

The slow start raises questions, in the eyes of some Democratic activists, about the candidate’s will to win the race. The longer his team lays dormant while the Curry operation controls the discourse, the more uphill the climb is certain to be.

Ironically, the lassitude of the Brown operation reminds some observers of the Hogan campaign four years ago, which seemingly took victory for granted until well into the shank of the evening on Election Night.

An indication of the Curry camp breaking from the “Business as Usual” paradigm and taking advantage of the incumbent’s slow start in 2015: Thursday night’s address to the Jacksonville Brotherhood of Firefighters. Curry has made outreach to the African-American community a priority in this campaign, and the address to the Brotherhood of Firefighters was laden with significance.

As Susan Cooper Eastman reported at Folio Weekly last month, the Alvin Brown Administration has a fractured relationship with African-American firefighters. Brown has, in the view of the JBF, ignored them since his election in 2011. The JBF and Curry clearly have found common ground and room for dialogue, which certainly helps the Republican with a professional association that believes the Brown administration takes it for granted.

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A.G. Gancarski has written a weekly column for Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly since 2003. His writings on politics, culture, and sport have appeared in the Washington Times, the Daily Caller, and the American Conservative. His radio and TV appearances include frequent contributions to WJCT-FM (Jacksonville’s Public Radio station); additionally, he has been a guest on Huff Post Live and the Savage Nation radio show. Gancarski can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.