The next Jacksonville Mayoral election is Mike Weinstein's to lose. The way we see it, there are four key things Weinstein needs to focus on to win in April1) Jenkins 2) Friendliness 3) Grassroots 4) Peyton's Record1) First things first. Weinstein needs to shore up support now from any potential opponents who would take votes away from him on election day. Battling an incumbent is never easy for the challenger, but it is almost impossible if he has other serious candidates nipping at his heels. One possible opponent that continues to be mentioned is outgoing City Councilwoman Suzanne Jenkins. We understand that Weinstein actually has approached Jenkins to see if something could be worked out (as in giving her a cabinet-level position?), but that meeting was rumored to consist of Weinstein's proposal having an air of take it or leave it . If this is true, this is definitely not the way to go about these things.
2) Mike, you gotta kiss babies and shake hands. In the arena of leadership and proven past performance, you absolutely destroy Peyton...but none of this matters if you are not perceived as a nice guy to the average Joe. You know this because you are not only a civic leader, but also a political man. You know that the average voter will elect, every time, the smiling, personable dismal failure over the proven leader who can be perceived as abrasive at times. So, this goes for your dealings not only with Jenkins and any other possible opponents, but also with the media and the public in general. Smile.
3) Grassroots: It's no secret that Peyton has a warchest just waiting to be opened and unloaded on the first person who steps up to challenge him. It will be a lot of hard work to overcome the puppet mayor held up by a million dollars. Weinstein will need to be at a lot of PTA meetings, Moose Lodge meetings, Civitan and Rotary club meetings, but this will be his strong base. He'll need to not forget to schedule numerous town hall meetings in the different areas of the city. And he would be remiss to forget the power of the internet to spread his message. Of course, Weinstein has to have his fair share of dollars too, but I feel that $750,000 is more than enough to beat this mayor. And that is only because of point number 4.
4) Weinstein will need to zero in on Peyton's record. One would be hard-pressed to name another incumbent in the office of Jacksonville Mayor who has had so many failures as John Peyton. The list of disappoinments is so long, that Weinstein's only problem will be to narrow it down to just a few to focus on. Here is a sampling of his options:
a) Astronomical crime rate and Peyton's shucking of any responsibility for it
b) Lack of leadership in Cecil Field issue (changing his mind)
c) Failure to take Jacksonville' park system from the "biggest to the best" (a huge objective of his for 2004)
d) Repeated mistakes on courthouse construction, to the tune of it now will cost taxpayers an extra $200 million
e) Attempt to strangle downtown development with the "Big Ideas"
f) The rejuvenation of The Landing has been a highlight of the last year. In one fell swoop in January of 2006, Peyton attempted to railroad this by cancelling over 2 years of negotiations with Toney Sleiman.
g) Creating a budget deficit, where a budget surplus existed previously.
Close behind appeasing and eliminating any potential opponents, this is the most important point. And it needs to happen because the citizens of Duval county deserve to know how poor a leader they have had over the last few years.
We are a city on the brink of growing into greatness. Aside from a tragic catastrophe here in Jacksonville, Peyton is the only thing standing in the way of our city crossing over that threshold.Weinstein has the political experience. He has the leadership experience. He needs to take the edge off, get a strong grassroots campaign going and just show the people Peyton's record. Do these things and Jacksonville has a new Mayor next year.