JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sheriff John Rutherford has announced he's endorsing former Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry in the race to become Jacksonville's mayor.
Curry and four others have filed to run against Mayor Alvin Brown this spring.
With the holidays passed, local political candidates are putting their campaigns in high gear. Now, Jacksonville's sheriff has announced he's backing Curry, which could prove vital in the race for the mayor's office.?
"Certainly helpful," said Michael Binder, a professor of political science at the University of North Florida. "Having a sheriff who has some popularity among certain constituencies in Jacksonville, having him endorse you is certainly helpful. Anybody who has positive name recognition that comes out behind you is certainly a benefit to any candidate."
Binder doesn't believe this is a huge blow to the incumbent mayor because both Rutherford and Curry are Republicans. He does, however, think it could have an impact on some of the other Republican in the field, City Councilman Bill Bishop.
"I don't know if I'd call him the favorite. Certainly an incumbent mayor has traditionally done quite well here in Jacksonville," said Binder. "I certainly think Lenny Curry is the favorite among the challengers. I think he's (favored) over Bill Bishop."
"He has a lot of support from the traditional Republican base so it will be interesting to see," Binder added. "I think it's going to be a close race either way, but I don't know if I'd call him quite the favorite just yet."
As for a response to Rutherford. endorsement, Bishop wrote: "Disappointment. I think he picked the wrong guy. I'm going to win."
Two independent candidates, Omega Allen and Marvin Kramer, have also filed to run for mayor, along with Tiffany Wingo, of the Independent Party of Florida.
Despite their party labels and affiliations, Jacksonville's elections are non-partisan, so if no candidate receives more than 50 percent in the March 24 primary, the top two candidates will face each other in the May 19 general election.
In addition to mayor, city voters will pick the next sheriff, clerk of courts supervisor of elections, tax collector, property appraiser and elect 19 city council members.
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