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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 24, 201412:00 PM EST

Running for mayor takes soul searching

by: Jim Bailey

Conversations have picked up since the first of the year about who will oppose Mayor Alvin Brown in 2015.

Though several names have been mentioned, many people are asking why someone hasn’t already surfaced.

As someone who was a candidate in 2011, I have a little insight into what potential candidates are going through right now.

The reality is making that decision isn’t easy. It is a very personal decision that impacts a lot of people and requires serious due diligence.

You must ask yourself a series of tough questions about your motivations, your chances and the impact such a race will have on your personal and professional life.

You should probably begin with a couple of personal questions: How badly do I want it? Do I have the fire in my belly? If you don’t have that fire, running for an office like mayor can be the most unpleasant experience of your life. Plus, you are not likely to win.

Are my motives for running and wanting to be mayor the right ones? What makes me think I can be a good mayor and make a difference for Jacksonville?

For me, I thought people underestimated what John Peyton did and how he had set the table for the next mayor. I felt the next mayor needed to be someone who would come in and make the tough decisions a politician wouldn’t make.

Money is also a big factor. It can cost a lot — possibly up to $2 million — to fund a mayoral campaign. Toppling an incumbent can be even more expensive, though Brown’s own fundraising to this point hasn’t been intimidating. He went two months without raising any money and had $292,000 in the bank at the end of January.

But asking for money is not something that appeals to everyone. For me, it was the worst part. I felt like I had to be willing to show donors I was willing to match at least part of what they were giving to my campaign.

I thought I had to show them that if I wanted them to believe in me, I had to let them know I believed in myself.

If you own a business like I do, or if you work for someone else and have a good job, what is going to happen to your business or your career if you run for mayor?

Campaigning takes a lot of time. If you are serious, it means you have to turn away from what pays your

living. And if you win, you have to leave your business behind while you serve.

For many, this can be a deal breaker.

And, here is one that can stop any political ambition dead in its tracks: What does your spouse feel and think?

Being the spouse of a political candidate, particularly for mayor, can be a high-profile burden many husbands and wives don’t enjoy.

They know you won’t be available to do family and social activities like before, because campaigning will come first.

Even worse for some is knowing they will be expected to participate in the campaign with their candidate spouse.

I was fortunate. My wife, Donna, never hesitated. She even made sure I had thought through what running for mayor might mean.

Plus, if a candidate has any viability, family privacy and personal secrets can become part of the public conversation.

At some point when you are thinking about running, you must realistically determine if you have a chance to win.

When I got in the race, no one else was in. Eventually, there were two other candidates I believed had the knowledge of what the city needed.

I got out because I felt the three of us were diluting each other’s campaigns.

By getting out I thought it would advance the opportunity for one of the other two to succeed.

Looking back, do I regret it? Yes. But it was the decision I thought was best at the time.

I had a friend once tell me:

“Before you decide to run for mayor, think about this: Right now, you have a great family life and you can enjoy your grandchildren. Your business is doing well. You’re very engaged in the community. And, people think you are a good and honest person.

“If you run, you can almost forget about going fishing with your grandson. You won’t have time to run your business and if you win you’ll have to walk away from it. Your community activities won’t be the ones you enjoy; instead it will become engagement without much choice.

“And, once you get into the race, automatically at least half the people, including your friends, will think there’s something seriously wrong with you.”

Like I said, it’s a tough decision to make. Let’s hope the people considering leading the 11th largest city in America are ready.

After all, this should be the hottest region in the country and it deserves a strong leader.

[email protected]

(904) 356-2466

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