More than 200 mostly African-American residents packed a church in Northwest Jacksonville Monday evening to hear from the three mayoral hopefuls vying to unseat Mayor Lenny Curry.
At Emmanuel Missionary Church, Republicans Anna Brosche and Jimmy Hill, along with unaffiliated candidate Omega Allen, addressed issues like public safety, economic development and government transparency.
Organizers also invited Curry, but he choose not to attend. The incumbent Republican will go head to head with his challengers in the only televised debate on Wednesday, March 6, before the March 19 elections.
All three candidates stressed wanting to address corruption and “backdoor business deals” in City Hall. Brosche used the strongest language, calling Curry of a “bully” and “vindictive,” among a slew of other names, which got her several rounds of applause.
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“We are incredibly lacking integrity in City Hall,” she said, as the crowd cheered. “We have had promises made and promises broken, not just in this administration, but for decades.”
Brosche tried to distinguish herself as the only candidate who will stand up for the area, as she touted what she accomplished as a member and one time president on the City Council.
She said she stopped the sale of JEA, appointed several African-American members to committees, and created a Civil Rights History Task Force.
Attorney Stephen A. Smith, who attended the forum, said he’s been drawn to Brosche because of her track record.
“She’s certainly spoken truth to power in her own party,” he said. “Look, I am a Democrat and if someone is willing speak truth to power, I am willing to give that person an opportunity.”
At the same time, Allen said a vote for anyone other than her is a vote for keeping the status quo.
“We have had that kind of administration over and over,” she said. “While their intentions may be good, they still belong to parties that will have undue influence, undue control, and it’s time for us to write destiny and our own history.”
Allen has run as a Democrat and a Republican in past elections. She said the “corruption” she saw is what drove her out of both parties.
Republican Jimmy Hill said he hopped in the race in part because his own business was negatively affected by the Curry administration.
Hill, the organizer of the Southeast U.S. Boat Show, said the city denied him access to Metropolitan Park, a venue he used for two decades, for what he believes were political reasons.
City officials maintained the reason for the denial was because of an outstanding fee from the previous year.
Brosche and Allen both said they want to move Confederate monuments from public spaces to museums, which got the support of the crowd. Hill contended they be kept but contextualized with more information.
On the issue of selling JEA, both Republicans said they wouldn’t consider it. Allen, however, said she would if residents could benefit.
Brosche, Allen and Hill are polling at 15, 6 and 3 percent, respectively, according a recent University of North Florida poll.
The unitary election is on March 19. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of votes, plus one, the top two will go to a runoff in May. But Curry could be re-elected straight out. He was polling at 52 percent.