The absentee ballots are
still being counted pretty much in, and it appears that Democrat Alvin Brown, a former staffer in the Bill Clinton administration, is going to be the new mayor of Jacksonville.
UPDATE 2: Alvin Brown has made history, as the first black mayor of Jacksonville, and the first Democratic mayor in 20 years. From Jacksonville.com:
Almost a full day after the polls closed, after the last 2,000 ballots were counted, it became official: Alvin Brown is Jacksonville’s next mayor.
Brown, 48, will be the first African-American to hold the seat in the city’s history and the first Democrat since Ed Austin was elected in 1991.
VIDEO: TRR’s Joy Reid discussing the race on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” with Chuck Todd:
His opponent, Republican Mike Hogan, conceded shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday, saying in a statement that he asked “all of my supporters to join me in rallying around Alvin Brown and his team as they begin the work of getting City Hall’s fiscal house in order and putting Jacksonville back to work.”
Shortly after that statement, Brown released his own.
“I am excited about the opportunity that we have to take Jacksonville to the next level, and I will work with people from every corner of this community to move Jacksonville forward,” he said. “Now is the time to bring Jacksonville together and unite our city.”
The campaign is planning an event for today but did not have details ironed out yet.
Brown will take office July 1, replacing outgoing two-termer John Peyton.
“I look forward to assisting Alvin and his team through the transition and wish him well through the course of his term,” Peyton said.
Brown’s victory was hailed as historic by his supporters, several dozen of whom spent the day at the Supervisor of Elections Office watching the final votes being counted.
City Councilman Johnny Gaffney described the wait Wednesday as excruciating.
“Am I really seeing this?” Gaffney said he wondered as the final results came in. “This says a lot about Jacksonville.”
Now, he said, the challenge for Brown is to unite the city in the aftermath of a very divided election.
“He’ll represent the entire city,” he said. “You do what’s best for the entirety of Jacksonville. That’s how you bring people together.”
Turnout in the race was a decent 37 percent.
The race vindicates an “all-in” strategy by the Florida Democratic Party, which dispatched executive director Scott Arceneaux to Jacksonville to help with the race. The party spent big on the election, pouring a half million dollars into a massive ground effort, and despite being outspent two to one by Mike Hogan, Brown prevailed with stronger turnout in his precincts, and a small but historic victory. According to Democratic strategist Steve Schale, a Jacksonville native, the race came down to the right candidate with the appropriate centrist message for what is essentially a center-right community.
Hogan ran on a hard right platform, and seems to have lost moderate Republicans and independents in the process. He was also controversial, joking earlier this year that the thought of blowing up an abortion clinic might “cross his mind,” and saying he’d be in favor of selling off preservation land to help balance the city’s budget. Hogan was endorsed by the local tea party, as well as by former Gov. Jeb Bush and current Gov. Rick Scott. The latter endorsement, by a very unpopular governor, likely didn’t help.
In the end, the close race came down to who had the better ground game, and in this race, that candidate was Alvin Brown.
Florida Republicans, to put it mildly, are stunned:
(Matt Dixon) A conversation I had with Senate President Mike Haridopolos summed it up best yesterday.
“The party is telling me Hogan should win pretty handily,” Haridopolos said.
The party in this case was the Republican Party of Florida, which invested in polling and had sent operatives to Duval to help ensure the campaign delivered. The margin being bandied around yesterday by various party officials I spoke with was between 6 and 10 points.
Even local party leaders and elected officials were telling me as recently as 4:00 pm yesterday that they felt confident they had this in the bag.
They had U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on board. He led a last-minute GOTV teleconference for Hogan. CFO Jeff Atwater was in town campaigning for Hogan on Election Day. Former House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, a candidate for U.S. Senate, was in town over the weekend campaigning for Hogan.
This group, particularly someone of Rubio’s stature, would have been reluctant to wade into a race they didn’t see as a sure thing.
Depending on the outcome, we’ll be talking a lot about what went wrong for the losing campaign and coalition. Rest assured, however, there are a lot of people quite unsure what happened in sleepy Jacksonville. Their perception that a GOP candidate would always win in Duval – even if his nomination elicited howls of protest from prominent civic leaders – has been shattered.
Here’s the statement sent out by Republican Party of Florida Chairman Dave Bitner:
“We are obviously disappointed in the outcome of this race. Mike Hogan has been a great tax collector for the city of Jacksonville and ran a tough race for the opportunity to continue serving the city,” said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Dave Bitner. “Alvin Brown campaigned as a conservative and ran on a platform of lower taxes, spending reductions and job creation. We, along with the voters of Jacksonville, will be sure to hold him accountable to those promises.”
Or the shorter version: “WTF???”
(almost) official. Alvin Brown now has enough votes, and conversely, there are not enough votes left for Republican Mike Hogan, to close the books on the Jacksonville mayor’s race.
Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland just said that Brown leads Republican Mike Hogan by 1,700 votes with fewer than 50 to be counted, making it “outside the realm” of a recount. That would mean Brown is the first Democrat to be elected mayor in the city in a generation and the first African-American mayor, ever.
Holland said by state statute he can’t officially certify the results until 5 p.m. Thursday. That’s when the 12 voters who cast disputed provisional ballots need to have shown their identification to the elections office, Holland said.
The Florida Democratic Party takes a victory lap:
Chairman Smith Congratulates Jacksonville Mayor-elect Alvin Brown
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith released the following statement congratulating Mayor-elect Alvin Brown on his election as Mayor of Jacksonville, Florida’s largest city. One of Chairman Smith’s first acts upon being elected to lead the Florida Democratic Party was to endorse Alvin Brown’s campaign:
“I would like to congratulate Alvin Brown on his election as the next Mayor of Jacksonville.
“Alvin Brown has shown himself to be the leader Jacksonville needs to move the city forward. He understands that quality public schools attract quality jobs, which is why Alvin received strong support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents.
“As Mayor, Alvin will continue working to move Jacksonville in a new direction, uniting the city behind his vision to improve the quality of life for all the residents of Jacksonville.”
TRR just spoke to Eric Jotkoff, the party’s communications’ director, and he chalked Brown’s victory up to a “perfect storm”: supremely unpopular governor (Rick Scott), a candidate with a strong, focused message (“Jobs and improving schools,”) and a solid grassroots effort.
“Rick Scott’s approval ratings are toxic, even in Jacksonville, which was one of the hearts of the tea party movement in 2010,” Jotkoff told TRR, adding that Brown was able to build a coalition of moderate Republicans who were “turned off by Hogan’s tea party extremism,” plus independents and Democrats, which along with strong black voter turnout, has apparently won the day.
Also per Jacksonville.com, it appears that the other thing Brown had going for him was intensity:
Hogan won 60 percent of the precincts, with an average margin of 62 percent to 38 percent. However, Brown’s margin of victory in the precincts he won was 76 percent to 24 percent. More than 190,000 votes were cast.
He might also have benefited a certain arrogance on the part of Hogan’s camp:
Mike Hogan’s campaign advisors made a series of critical errors in communication and grass roots outreach that Alvin Brown capitalized on, said Audrey Moran and former Jacksonville mayor Jake Godbold.
Moran ran third in the March 22 municipal race and Godbold strongly supported her. He then gave a lukewarm endorsement to Hogan and held a fundraiser for him in part, because “I thought Hogan was going to win.”
Godbold said that Hogan should have been a “shoo-in” and he blasted the campaign for giving Hogan “a lot of bad advice.”
“He [Brown] didn’t write anybody off. He went and talked to everybody, while on the other side they ran like they had already won it,” Godbold said.
Moran praised Brown for running a hard-charging grass roots campaign citywide that outpaced Hogan’s.
“He [Brown] wasn’t afraid to answer questions and he wasn’t afraid to talk to groups that may have been somehow intimidating to him,” she said.
Moran and Godbold agreed that Hogan should have attended more televised debates and group forums in both races. He attended two of four TV debates in the first round and agreed to have only one TV debate before the general election. He refused Brown’s request for more TV debates.
“At the end of the day people wanted to see more of Mike Hogan,” Moran said. “I know that [avoiding such exposure] was a strategic decision on the part of his campaign, but I believe it may have hurt him in the end.”
Whatever the reason, it’s a big win for Democrats, who were routed in the 2010 election statewide, but who have seen their fortunes rebound as Gov. Rick Scott becomes more and more unpopular among voters from both parties, as well as with independents.
Democrats also held onto the Tampa mayoral seat this spring, and swept the city council races in the city that will host the 2012 Republican convention.
ORIGINAL POST (edited):
The Florida Democratic Party sent out a fundraising appeal earlier today, as absentee ballots were still being counted:
For the first time in about 20 years, Jacksonville will send a Democrat to the Mayor’s Office. Alvin Brown currently leads Mike Hogan by 603 votes with around 1,200 absentee and provisional ballots to be counted. The canvassing board began meeting at 9:00 this morning, and they are currently counting ballots.
Alvin put together a unique coalition of forward thinking Democrats, Republicans, Independents and people of all walks of life and every corner of Jacksonville. As Mayor, he will work to unite the city and bring people together to take Jacksonville in a new direction. This is an historic achievement and a tribute to his strong campaign.
Duval County, of which Jacksonville is the county seat, is truly red country. Not only has Jacksonville not had a Democratic mayor in a generation, in the county, Marco Rubio pulled in 53.1% of the vote, versus 27.3% for Democrat Kendrick Meek and 18.2% for former governor Charlie Crist. By contrast, statewide, Marco Rubio won 48.9% to Kendrick Meek’s 20.% and Charlie Crist’s 29.7%.
Similarly, Rick Scott edged out Democratic gubernatorial challenger Alex Sink 48.9 percent to 47.7 percent statewide, but got over the 50 percent threshhold in Duval, winning 51.46% to Alex Sink’s 45.75%.
The City of Jacksonville is actually the largest city in Florida, with a population of over 821,000 people (Miami-Dade County is larger than Duval County, but Miami “city proper” is smaller than Jacksonville.) And it has a sizable black population (about 30 percent, versus 55-60 percent white and white/Hispanic) which has to turn out in serious numbers to make a Democrat competitive. That typically doesn’t happen in off year elections in Duval, which is also home to one of Florida’s three black Congress members, Corinne Brown.
For Brown to win, he had to have managed to turn out solid numbers of black voters, along with a significant crossover vote of Republicans. Brown ran as a centrist, and his association with Bill Clinton probably helped him on both fronts.
Jacksonville, like Florida, had a history of Democratic leaders, dating back to Reconstruction, when the entire south was ruled by Democrats. But Democrat’s last Democratic mayor, Ed Austin Jr., elected in 1991, the year after redistricting essentially changed Florida from a Democratic state to a Republican-dominated one, switched parties to become a Republican during his tenure. From 1995 on, Jacksonville has had only Republican mayors: two-term mayor John Delaney, and the out-going mayor, John Peyton.
And in 2008, Barack Obama narrowly won Florida, 51.0 percent to John McCain’s 48.2 percent. But McCain prevailed in Duval County, 50.53% to Obama’s 48.63%, winning by just under 8,000 votes.
So how are Republicans reacting to the Jacksonville loss? Per The Buzz:
The race was a topic of discussion at the RNC state chairman’s meeting in Dallas, reinforcing that Democrats are forming an intense ground game, said national GOP committeeman Paul Senft of Florida. “Obviously, we’re very aware of what they did there,” he said. “It was effective.”
Senft, of Haines City, said a takeaway from the strategy meeting was Republicans need to get moving. ”
We need to get more intense boots on the ground earlier than before. Obama’s already out there.” He cited the union rallies in Wisconsin as another signal Democrats are fired up.
“It’s going to be intense. We knew it would be. It’s going to be earlier than we originally thought,” Senft said. But he’s confident Republicans can deliver.
Meanwhile, the vote counting continues in J’ville.