The back-and-forth between Aaron Bean and Mike Weinstein for the Republican spot in the State Senate District 4 race has generated many headlines due to negative advertising, which also has caused the contest to lead the way in intrigue for area political pundits for today’s primary voting.
“Both candidates are so similar – moderate Republicans who have engaged in a very vicious attack campaign ... in which they are trying to paint the other one as liberal,” said Stephen Baker, Jacksonville University political science professor.
Bean served as a state representative from 2000-08, Weinstein was elected state representative in 2008 and currently serves. State Senate District 4 encompasses portions of Duval and Nassau counties.
“The primary probably has a little more charge in it with the race,” said Matt Corrigan,
University of North Florida Department of Political Science and Public Administration chair.
Corrigan said the amount of money raised and poured into advertising, mostly negative, has led to the race being elevated above other similar races, and its results could help shape the state senate’s leadership.
“It is definitely the more vicious of the campaigns,” said Marcella Washington, Florida State College at Jacksonville political science professor.
Baker said that because the candidates are similar, campaigns manufacture differences that lead to the negative advertising, which causes negative responses and a “vicious circle.” Most voters tend to be put off by such maneuvers, but “it seems if you don’t do it, you lose,” Baker said.
Jobs and the economy are two main issues that permeate campaigns, but though the candidates identify them as problems, they don’t identify solutions – cutting services and raising taxes in most instances – because those measures are unpopular, Baker said.
So instead, the conversation is reduced to generalities and candidates running on names instead of issues, Baker said.
Corrigan agreed and said that after the primary has concluded, “candidates will deliver messages instead of ads.”
While Bean vs. Weinstein has generated much attention, there are several other races the three local analysts are keeping an eye on.
Washington said that with the recent ruling that incumbent Clerk of Courts Jim Fuller is ineligible to seek a fourth term, the focus on the race between Bill Hodges and Brenda Priestly Jackson to become the Democratic opponent to Republican Ronnie Fussell is a “sleeper.”
She said the race has Hodges, a white, male Democrat with no elected experience but a strong campaign, against Priestly Jackson, a female, black Democrat and “known quantity” who has served eight years on the Duval County School Board but hasn’t been as active on the campaign trail.
How each candidate fares at the polls and the particular turnout could be a precursor to voting patterns for the Nov. 6 general election that features a highly visible presidential election, she said.
Corrigan said the presidential race even today dominates headlines and overshadows the primary, but he will also be interested to see the results from the area’s many school board races.
He said he will be particularly interested in the District 1 race between Martha Barrett, the incumbent, and former member Cheryl Grimes, both whom he calls strong candidates and visible community members.
Baker said he looks forward to some of the school board races, including the District 7 race that features six candidates.
He also mentioned the Public Defender race between incumbent Matt Shirk and challenger Chuck Fletcher as one to watch because it will be decided today and everyone can vote in it.
Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. today. Visit www.duvalelections.com for more information.