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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Jan. 15, 201412:00 PM EST

Taking a break or hitting a wall? Mayor Alvin Brown's campaign raised no money the past two months

by: David Chapman

Mayor Alvin Brown hadn’t reached the halfway point of his first term in office when he made it official that he would run for a second one.

Brown announced his plans the first week of March, more than two years before the March 24, 2015, first election.

Incumbents typically come out early to raise a lot of money to ward off serious contenders.

Brown’s fundraising started out strong.

In March alone, he raised $104,800. In the second quarter of 2013, he collected $154,685, followed by $44,880 in the third quarter.

The numbers significantly dropped in October, when the campaign brought in $12,800.

Then, in November and December, Brown’s re-election effort brought in no money.

Not receiving donations for two straight months is “unusual” for a mayoral candidate who opened a campaign account as early as Brown did, said Matt Corrigan, University of North Florida professor and chair of the political science and public administration department.

“The whole purpose of opening an account early is to send a message to the opposition,” he said. “Two months with no money doesn’t send that message.”

Brown did not respond to interview requests made Monday and Tuesday.

When former Mayor John Peyton announced his intention to run for a second term about 17 months before the election, he raised $861,909 during his first quarter. Overall, he raised more than $1.25 million and never drew a serious contender.

But David Beattie, who is assisting Brown with his re-election campaign, brushed off the campaign raising no money in November and December.

He attributed it to the holidays, staffing issues and that Brown was working full time as mayor. Plus, he said, the campaign and fundraising are “not one of the main focuses.”

“We are not actively campaigning. … It’s a long time before the election,” said Beattie, president of Hamilton Campaigns.

He said Brown was going to spend 2014 leading the city, working on keeping a balanced budget and leading investment into the port and local economy.

Beattie said there were personnel losses to Brown’s campaign during the final two months of the year.

Finance Director Gregory Goddard left in November for a similar role in Charlie Crist’s campaign to become governor. Goddard had been paid $15,166 since September, according to Brown’s finance reports.

In early December, campaign treasurer and Brown’s close friend, Chester Aikens, died unexpectedly.

Beattie also said the campaign does not have paid staff members yet.

Attorney Neil Henrichsen, chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, said much of his organization’s focus is on the governor’s race this fall, pitting Crist against incumbent Rick Scott.

“We have the governor’s race … that’s the real focus for the local and state Democratic parties,” Henrichsen said. “Right now we don’t have a lot of focus on it (the mayor’s race), because again, it’s early.”

Corrigan said with Brown not having a well-known opponent, supporters are less likely to contribute. Not having a single contribution was “a little surprising” but “not a huge red flag.”

“It’s unusual but at the end of the day, he’s going to be measured against his competition,” he said.

Competition that could be coming sometime in the next 90 days, said Rick Hartley, chair of the Republican Party of Duval County.

Among the Republicans considered possible challengers for Brown are City Council President Bill Gulliford and Sheriff John Rutherford.

“I think it shows that the mayor has very thin support and that people have given him money to placate him until they see what happens on the other side,” Hartley said of the reports. “A lot of us have felt all along that his support was very shallow … this isn’t a surprise.”

Hartley said the latest fundraising results could make other Democrats consider throwing their names in the mayoral race.

“I think people are sensing there is blood in the water,” he said.

Candidates have to file monthly reports through the end of the year. January’s results are due by Feb. 10.

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First quarter: $104,800

Second quarter: $154,685

Third quarter: $44,880

October: $12,800

November: $0

December: $0

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