The New Year is upon us, and Lenny Curry’s campaign brochures are starting to surface in San Marco and other places in Jacksonville where likely Republican voters congregate, giving the people of Jacksonville insight into the candidate and the campaign.
The cover of the brochure shows Curry’s bridge logo with a sun rising over it – a homage to the Reagan “Morning in America” motif from the 1984 reelection campaign – with a slogan that sets the tone for the rest of the document: “Fiscally Conservative Leadership for a Better Jacksonville”.
The “About Lenny Curry” section, meanwhile, describes Curry as a “native Floridian and a Jacksonville civic leader” who has “worked alongside Governor Rick Scott to help make Jacksonville a place where jobs are created and families can thrive”. In this “About” section, he introduces the trope of “servant leadership”, a motif familiar in recent years because of it being used as a model in C-Class environs.
Servant leadership translates to being “first among equals”, and those who know Lenny at all know that he has modeled this throughout his life. A longtime church member and family man, Curry’s calling card has been a certain humility that many of his supporters contrast with that of the incumbent Mayor, who has been accused by former friends and current adversaries as being high handed in situations where people disagree with him.
The Plan to Restore Jacksonville that Curry outlines is relatively light on specifics, perhaps because Curry is saving more specific recommendations for later in the campaign or early in his term.
He seeks to “[e]xpand economic opportunity”, “[e]nsure public safety”, “partner with education leaders”, and [r]eclaim our city’s greatness by celebrating our neighborhoods and connecting them with a growing, vibrant downtown.” This all connects with Curry’s stated reason for running: “A world-class city with world-class leadership deserves world-class leadership in City Hall.”
“A Message from Lenny”, meanwhile, reiterates the “servant leadership” motif.
As the pamphlet claims, “servant leadership… recognizes that city government has to do the basic things right… recognizes the big picture of Jacksonville’s potential and the unique needs of its neighborhoods and communities… understands the value of a dollar and how to be a good steward of every dollar taxpayers give to City Hall to provide services.”
These themes, of course, are not accidental. The pension crisis has created a situation where Jacksonville routinely struggles with creating discretionary money in the budget, and especially in an environment where overt tax increases are off the table (though revenue enhancements are created on the slant), many in Jacksonville feel both overtaxed and underserved.
The “unique needs of its neighborhoods and communities” motif likely will resonate in Jacksonville, a city comprised of many disparate parts, each with their own specific needs. The post-Consolidation era and the orientation of the city’s two parties in the last quarter-century has created a situation where competing political interests in this city talk past each other on issue after issue. Curry’s goal: to be a uniter, not a divider, and the early stages of his campaign have seen him reach out to constituencies and communities not traditionally in the Republican column.
Critics maintain that Curry is “hyper conservative”, yet that analysis misses the point. Curry is running a resolutely establishment Republican campaign, firmly aligned with the Scott administration’s priorities. Those familiar with his thinking cite Rick Perry and Chris Christie as national-level politicians with whom he accords, both of whom have proven to think outside of the ideological box on issues. Curry is said to especially appreciate the governing style of Christie (Bridgegate aside, obviously).
Curry is still building name recognition locally; this brochure and other documents to come complement the current TV ads in heavy rotation, where we see Curry’s family and father making claims that the first time candidate and former RPOF Chair is “not a politician” – a claim that has hackled many of those opposing him. There will be a time for Curry to go more specific on local issues, after the conclusion of the Holiday Season (and perhaps after the qualifying deadline later this month).