I am a Jax Dem, a liberal, and a daily Daily Kos reader. Couldn't be happier with this result, and I'll admit I had grave doubts Brown could pull it off. From all appearances Hogan had more money and more visibility. Hogan's greatest backer was this [expletive deleted] who owns all the local stripmalls. Thus, huge obnoxious Hogan signs were EVERYWHERE. Brown ran out of signs weeks ago and never got more. But my friends in the local Democratic party told me they were completely focused on getting out the vote. This strategy was effective in '08 and succeeded again. I'm amazed!
I was just over at slackiinoff's Rec-listed diary on Jacksonville's new mayor. I found myself running on at the mouth in the comments and decided to turn my comments into a diary.
My theme is basically my thoughts on how/why a black Democrat won the highest office in what is seen as a bastion of the conservative Good-ol'-boy South.
In response to a comment by user icemilkcoffee, "Are latinos the deciderer here or what?" I began the following response, which spiraled into this diary:
North Florida is NOT heavily latino at all. Their numbers are growing, to be sure, but not in comparison to the southern half of our state.
No, I would say that this election can be chalked up to 2 or 3 things.
One, when I was working hard to help the Obama campaign in '08, I would sometimes quote that joke line, "Once you go black, you never go back!" Simply put: Obama's candidacy energized many who had previously felt (and in some cases were) disenfranchised. And it helped unify the Democratic party. I found myself canvassing neighborhoods I never would have stepped foot in during my teens and twenties. It opened my eyes. I saw that we are all one with the same goals. (Of course I always knew that intellectually, but even smart liberals have lizard-brains with vague fears that go back years and years!)
The precinct demographics show that Hogan the Republican won more precincts but by a narrower margin. The precincts Brown took he took overwhelmingly. What this says to me is that, in a city that is still highly segregated, probably this: mixed-race and majority-white precincts voted for Hogan, but there were still about 40% willing to vote for Brown. Majority-black precincts were probably those that went for Brown by a 3-to-1 margin. I am giving a complete armchair, amateur analysis -- but would not be surprised if it held up.
So, the '08 campaign helped mobilize Jacksonville's African-American community and lift their belief in possibility. Candidate Obama visited here often, including a rally the day before Election Day. He said even if he did not win Duval County/Jacksonville the margin of increased Democratic turnout could enable him to carry the state. He was correct in that prediction.
The other benefit of the Obama campaign is that I believe it finally opened the eyes of a lot of non-blacks to the possibility of supporting a black leader. In the 90s the Dems ran another African-American candidate for mayor and he did not win. Again, this is mere armchair analysis, but I would not be surprised if some whites who either voted for Obama or who have observed his competent performance were able to envision a black leader more so than they would have been able to before President Obama. It's like, "If we have a black president and he does a pretty good job, why would we be afraid of having a black mayor?"
Moreover, before Obama folks would have thought, "A black candidate can never win!" and that despondency would have been self-fulfilling as they stayed home. Now the question has to be: can a non-black candidate ever excite the entirety of Democratic voters enough to beat run-of-the-mill white Republican candidates. (And, hey, as well all know from Haley and Rubio, Repugs are learning to use demographic shifts to there advantage as well. I had a liberal friend in '08 tell me that if McCain chose Jindal she'd vote Republican because she was of Indian heritage.)
The other main reason for this victory is that the Republican candidate was not just another bland run-of-the-mill white guy. He was very conservative. The two parties have learned vastly different lessons from the 2010 midterms. The GOP has seemingly learned to turn ever-rightward and crazier. The Dems have learned to not take turnout for granted and to steal the centrist voters who are turned off by the new GOP craziness.
As we are seeing all over America, many voters who may have slept through the November 2010 elections are rejecting the nightmare extreme right policies they ushered in. Most voters dislike our distrustful Governor Rick Scott. Candidate Mike Hogan made appearances with Scott. The lessons the Right-wing seems to have taken from 2010 is: We won! The electorate wants us to be no-holds-barred maximum conservatives! The lesson the rest of the country seems to have taken from 2010 is: Oh crap! If we don't vote, only crazy people vote... and they elect crazy people! Let's not do that again!
It really is a harbinger for larger state and national elections I feel. If any Repub besides Hogan had made it into the general it may have gone differently. I'm friends with many who worked for and supported Audrey Moran, who ran as a moderate (even in some ways liberal) Republican. All her supporters that I know flocked to Democrat Brown! They hated Hogan.
So... I hope the GOP continues its insane shift ever-rightward. I honestly think if the Republican Party does not have a drastic restructuring they will not win major elections. The 2010 mid-term may just turn out to be a swan song... Here's hoping!
The battlefield, as always, is TURNOUT! The percentages were not very high (just over a third of voters showed up) but the Brown campaign put a lot of energy into turnout and the word on the street is that the Hogan campaign took it for granted that their voters would come out. Since many local conservatives, and moderate Republicans, were not fond of their candidate their turnout suffered.
Let's hope it takes the opposing team a loooong time to realize their policies and candidates are unpopular. We probably have a good chance of this, since they are totally enamored of themselves and they isolate themselves from conflicting opinions. Will Fox News and hate talk radio eventually lead to the end of the current conservative movement as we know it?
For now, I just say: GO MAYOR ALVIN BROWN!