Sometimes a group will make recommendations about candidates before the money gets in the way. Case in point: the leaders of the local Democratic Executive Committee (DEC) made recommendations [see their picks] in mid-March to its members (and by extension, to all 228,000 Democrats in Duval County) on how they should vote in the ten races (out of 18) where no Democrat even bothered to qualify as a candidate. Using a system of red rectangles, the DEC ranked 35 non-democrats from merely “right-leaning” (one rectangle) to “radical right” (two rectangles) and “extreme right” (three rectangles).
Five of those ten races remain in play for the May 17 runoff, three of them county-wide. For Tax Collector, the DEC gave its best score, one rectangle, to only Dick Kravitz, and its worst score to Michael Corrigan. For Council at large group 4, Jim Robinson was the only candidate to earn the single rectangle, while Greg Anderson garnered the same “extreme right” designation as Corrigan. The message of the DEC was clear – Democrats should vote for Kravitz and Robinson, and steer clear of Corrigan and Anderson.
Yet with the onset of early voting last week a different committee of Democrats stepped forth to tell their constituents which Republicans they considered worthy. In the “Jacksonville Community Leaders’ 2011 Quick-Picks,” apparently issued in lieu of the perennial Corrine Brown’s Quick-Picks, Representative Mia Jones and Reggie Fullwood, along with Councilmen Johnny Gaffney and Reggie Brown, have chosen to recommend the two “extreme righters” over the mere “right-leaners” in their Quick Picks — Corrigan over Kravitz and Anderson over Robinson.
So why would community leaders Jones, Fullwood, Gaffney and Brown pick two candidates designated by their own county party leadership as “extreme right” candidates? Were their quick-picks like those for lotto tickets — random? Or could more sinister forces be at work?
One clue may be the common use by Corrigan and Anderson of a newly formed political consulting firm, the Vineyard. Founded by present City Councilman Ronnie Fussell and Florida Representative Daniel Davis, and employing recent anti-Home Town Democracy lobbyist Drew Messer, the Vineyard has been criticized for its expressed willingness to lobby both the bodies to which its owners belong – the state legislature and Jacksonville City Council. Expenditure reports show the Corrigan campaign has paid over $22,000 to Messer and the Vineyard for consulting and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts; Anderson has paid over $14,000 to the Vineyard as his campaign manager. While the Vineyard is not publically revealed as representing any other current candidates, both of its “extreme right” candidates are now approved by a committee that, interestingly, also endorses Alvin Brown and includes his headquarters’ telephone number if one needs “to report voting irregularities at the polls.”
Campaign workers were also observed last weekend doing double duty – first waving Brown signs and then swapping for Corrigan wavers. Fortunately for those Democrats who may prefer to follow the recommendations of their actual elected county party leadership, other community leaders, including Councilwoman Glorious Johnson and recent sheriff candidate Ken Jefferson, have issued their own written endorsements of Kravitz and Robinson for distribution as well. It remains to be seen, however, if the “quick-picks” disinformation will have convinced enough of its targeted Democratic electorate to trick them into electing two of the least moderate candidates in this election.
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