Jacksonville, Florida, could elect Alvin Brown as the city’s first African American mayor when voters return to the polls in a runoff election later this spring.
Brown finished second in a crowded field of six in the nonpartisan contest last week, with 24 percent of the vote. He will face Mike Hogan, Duval County’s tax collector, who pulled 34 percent. The runoff is May 17.
“I want to put Jacksonville back to work,” Brown told supporters after the vote, which the Florida Times-Union characterized as a surprisingly strong result. “I want to get our financial house in order. We have to focus on public safety and education…. Together we’ll take Jacksonville to the next level.”
After a childhood in Beaufort, S.C., Brown came to Jacksonville 30 years ago to study at Edward Waters College and Jacksonville University, where he earned two degrees, including a master’s in business administration, and is executive in residence in the university’s Davis College of Business.
Brown’s work has taken him in and out of the city. He has spent a number of years in Washington, where he was an aide to Vice President Al Gore on urban policy and worked for the President Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary, the late Ron Brown.
Brown also was an advisor to Hillary Clinton, now secretary of state, in her 2008 presidential campaign.
Brown entered the election with some prominent endorsements from the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Urban League. “I have known Alvin for years, and we both worked together at the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary Cuomo,” said U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, chair of Congressional Black Caucus. “Alvin was a champion then and now of policies, like empowerment zones, that create and sustain jobs. I know he will be a champion for the working people of Jacksonville.”
“Alvin Brown has the right combination of business savvy, political experience and commitment to people to make a great mayor of Jacksonville,” Said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League.
Brown’s conservative will be needed if he hopes to win runoff, as Jacksonville is a traditionally conservative city and a place where Brown’s ties to the Clinton administration may not translate into the across-the-board appeal needed in a mayor’s race. His campaign, however, has stressed the need for economic recovery, not Brown’s strong ties to national Democratic figures.
Job creation is a compelling argument in a time of high unemployment. Voters will decide in six weeks whether Brown or Hogan is the right person to lead that effort and whether the metropolitan city will have an African-American man at its helm.
Contributing Editor Bill Edmonds is a consultant in communications in Tallahassee, Florida. A native of Virginia, he has worked in the Florida capital for three decades in journalism, in public affairs and in communications. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s in American Studies from Florida State University.