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Jax Daily Record Monday, Apr. 15, 201312:00 PM EST

Brown's bid for 2nd term raises funds - and questions

by: Publisher: James F. Bailey Jr.

There are 560,324 registered voters in Duval County.

With about two years before we head to the polls for the 2015 local elections, my guess is that fewer than 1,000 of those 560,324 registered voters are remotely paying attention or even care about the next mayor's race.

As one of those who pay attention, I found the first finance report filed by Mayor Alvin Brown in his re-election campaign interesting on several levels.

While nearly all first-time office holders plan to seek a second term, Brown has started his campaign earlier than most incumbents.

He's made it clear from Day One he expects to serve eight years, but there was some surprise when Brown opened his campaign account March 6.

Finance reports must be made at the end of each quarter and general political wisdom is that a candidate starts a campaign at the beginning of the quarter to take full advantage of the full three months to raise as much money as possible.

The mayor pulled the trigger with just three weeks remaining in the quarter.

Despite the short time period, many political watchers expected him to raise at least $300,000. So, when you look at his cash total of just more than $104,000 you can think Brown should have raised more — but the mayor collected almost $35,000 a week.

If he maintains the same pace in the second quarter he will have at least $500,000 by July 4 and he will collect almost $4 million by Election Day at that pace.

Of course, Brown is hoping to discourage potential opposition with his early fundraising start.

I think the political ideal for the mayor will be to raise a huge war chest and have a nominal opponent. That way, Brown can own the airwaves to promote his image and lay out his second-term agenda without fear of defeat.

This first finance report gives Brown traction, but does he have momentum?

Brown reported 233 contributors — including 33 attorneys or law firms.

Attorney and former Democrat gubernatorial candidate Steve Pajcic, along with nine other Pajcics, gave Brown $500 each.

Developer and Jacksonville Landing owner Toney Sleiman and three other Sleimans each contributed $500.

Several of Brown's appointed aides made contributions, but absent is the mayor's most visible aide, Chris Hand, Brown's chief of staff.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan is on the list for $500.

But there are many folks missing.

It's well documented that in 2010, Brown pretty much snaked the election from Mike Hogan when many high-powered Republicans, uninspired by Hogan and led by Peter Rummell, threw their backing to underdog Brown.

Rummell's name shows up toward the end of this Brown campaign report — contribution 232 of 233 — with a $500 contribution March 31, the last day of the quarter.

Others, like Ed Burr, Steve Halverson, Marty Fiorentino and Preston Haskell also contributed $500.

But a number of the GOP's big guys, some who followed Rummell's lead in the last election, are absent.

Are they keeping their powder dry to see if anyone else enters the race?

Or, are they just planning to contribute to Brown later?

Perhaps there's a better question. Are those Republicans who contributed only a single check of $500 to Brown just trying to buy some time?

After all, some of these people are referred to as "bundlers" for their ability to amass large numbers of contributions for their favored candidates.

Brown's administration has made some financial blunders, but he's been fiscally conservative and refused to raise or impose new taxes.

But to say that the local Republican infrastructure is impressed by Brown's conservative ways or wants to see him re-elected is a gross overstatement.

While 12 of the more than 50 members of the Jacksonville Civic Council gave Brown money, rumors are persistent that many in that group want a credible candidate to run against Brown in 2015.

Yet, the old adage, "You can't beat somebody with nobody," certainly applies here.

Brown is an incumbent with reportedly high popularity poll numbers and now he appears to be on his way to banking big campaign dollars.

That makes Brown SOMEBODY.

There are a lot of folks who think the mayor has never stopped campaigning since winning in May 2010.

He generally receives high marks for self-promotion and making headlines.

He consistently shows up anywhere two or more people and news cameras are gathered.

Though, when people who pay attention to local politics come together, Brown's leadership is continuously questioned.

As we approach the end of his second year in office, many insiders question just what the mayor has accomplished.

If he wants to avoid a serious opponent in 2015, Brown should keep raising money, but he also needs to change the water-cooler conversation with strong leadership that produces concrete results.

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