By Karen Brune Mathis
Republican supporter Peter Rummell said Saturday that his high-profile decision to endorse and financially support Democratic mayoral candidate Alvin Brown gives cover to other highly visible Republicans who want to do the same.
“It is my fondest hope,” Rummell said Saturday after a front-page story in The Times-Union that he donated $150,000 of his personal funds matched by other donors to raise $300,000 for Brown, who is running against Republican Mike Hogan.
“The whole strategy was the paper would generate some interest,” he said.
“I frankly wasn’t interested in making a story out of it and I got talked into doing it by people who are smarter than me for just that reason.”
He said he’d received emails and phone calls Saturday morning, consisting of “some people wanting to add to the pot and some just general interest.”
“I’ve had 10 or 12 this morning from people I know and from people I didn’t know,” he said. “It’s gone from ‘put me in, Coach’ to ‘tell me your logic.’”
Rummell said he had permission from Jacksonville Jaguars co-owner Delores Barr Weaver and Haskell Co. founder Preston Haskell, also a Jaguars partner, to release their names.
Rummell said all donor names eventually are made public through campaign finance reports, but he expects others will release their names publicly before reports are filed.
“My instincts would be yes,” he said.
Brown said Saturday he was honored and humbled by Rummell’s endorsement.
“Peter Rummell is a prolific entrepreneur who loves Jacksonville and puts Jacksonville first over party,” he said.
“Clearly, he agrees with my vision to put people back to work. It’s about the future and he knows this is an important election,” said Brown.
Brown talked about his plan to not raise taxes or fees and to focus on the port, Downtown and education and said he would foster public-private partnerships to address issues.
“I’m pro-business. I’m a conservative Democrat,” said Brown.
Rummell said donations are a little more than $300,000 and he expects additional funds. “The goal was to double the $150,000 and we did that,” he said.
According to campaign finance reports filed Friday with the Supervisor of Elections, Hogan has raised almost $697,000 through April 8 and spent $577,400. Brown raised $229,000 and spent $165,400.
Rummell’s political cover could extend to the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce if its JaxBiz political affiliate endorses Brown. The group met Friday and a chamber spokeswoman said the chamber would not have an announcement until early this week.
Rummell said he attended the JaxBiz meeting Friday held to determine which of the two candidates, if either, to endorse.
JaxBiz endorsed Republican Audrey Moran in the March 22 election.
Moran came in third with almost 22 percent of the vote behind Hogan, at 34 percent and Brown, at 24 percent. Republican Rick Mullaney came in fourth with 16 percent.
Rummell would not comment on the JaxBiz decision, saying he understood that the news announcement is expected soon.
Rummell, former chair of The St. Joe Co., said he considers Brown “the better choice.”
“I think Jacksonville has been through, and the whole country’s been through, a tough time and how we come out of this takes creativity and imagination and openness to new ideas and Alvin has the mindset for that and to listen to fresh ideas and surrounds himself with new ideas,” he said.
“I don’t think Mike is,” said Rummell.
Rummell said he has met with Hogan. “He says what he says. He doesn’t say anything in person that he hasn’t said in public.”
Rummell is chair of the Jacksonville Civic Council, a group of about 50 corporate and civic leaders formed in early 2010 to study and advocate for community issues. Its first effort was the recent Northbank Redevelopment Task Force Report calling for an independent Downtown Improvement Authority and development of a Downtown convention center.
The report recommended that the City consider multiple sources of funding for an authority. It included recommendations for a Tourism Investment
District to tax some revenues within the hotel-motel industry for use to promote tourism in Duval County; the use of grants; creation of a Utility Revenues Finance District to apply a percentage of revenues from JEA sales.
Downtown toward bonding for large-scale need; and to use proceeds from the existing Tax Increment Finance funding Downtown be directed to the DIA.
The Civic Council does not endorse candidates as a group, leaving support up to individual members.
Rummell said some of those members were among the 33-34 people he invited to a meeting 5-6:30 p.m. this past Tuesday at the Hyatt Downtown to talk about the election.
He said he invited about 42 people and seven or eight were out of town and just two people said they were not interested.
Rummell didn’t endorse anyone in the first election, although he said his wife, Lee Ann, supported Moran. Included among those invited to the event were supporters of Moran and Mullaney.
He said those invited were people he knew “who were trying to decide what to do.”
“We had a grown-up hour-and-a-half conversation about the whole thing and I just decided sitting there that somebody needed to go first,” he said.
Asked if endorsing Brown, a Democrat, was a difficult decision, he said “it really wasn’t.”
“I don’t take $150,000 casually, but I thought it was important that Alvin have a voice and I think he has an important story and I think he is an important alternative and I want everybody to understand that,” said Rummell.
“The fact he is a Democrat in a Republican town shouldn’t make a difference when we are picking the CEO of the city,” he said.
Hogan spokeswoman Erin Isaac said Sunday that the endorsement of Brown by Rummell “should come as no surprise.”
“Mr. Rummell’s calls for more government and higher taxes in the creation of a Downtown Development Authority with limited oversight and independent taxing authority is consistent with his past support for irresponsible government spending and candidates who promise these kinds of liberal policies,” she said.
Hogan took the largest percentage of votes in the first election. Asked whether he thought Brown had a chance to win the May 17 general election, Rummell said he thought time was an enemy,
“Mike is better known and there are only four or five weeks to get the message out,” said Rummell.
“I think a lot of it will depend on turnout.”
Turnout in the March 22 election was 29.6 percent of registered voters. The Supervisor of Elections Office reports that of the registered voters who cast ballots, 36.4 percent were Republicans, 30.3 percent were Democrats, 14.5 percent had no party affiliation and 17 percent were other.
Hogan’s lengthy list of endorsements includes the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County, the First Coast Tea Party, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, the First Coast Manufacturers Association, the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors, the Northeast Florida Builders Association and the National Rifle Association.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott said Friday he was in full support of Hogan.
Brown’s endorsements, which include the Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group, are listed on his website and include former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore among other Democrats, including state and
local elected officials. Brown, an Executive in Residence at the Jacksonville University Davis College of Business, worked in the Clinton-Gore administration.
Hogan is the Duval County Tax Collector and served on both the Jacksonville City Council and the Florida Legislature.
Rummell said his conversations with other Republicans have been civil.
“People have been respectful of my logic. No one has hung up on me or called me an idiot. It’s been mature, which has been gratifying.”
He called it a one-time effort. “Now the goal is to help Alvin be as competitive as he can be,” said Rummell, who said he wasn’t involved in campaign management.
“Now the campaign gets to work. They’ve got ads to create and get-out-the-vote efforts,” said Rummell. “They gotta run like hell.”