JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The first shots have been fired in this year's Jacksonville mayoral race, and News4Jax is caught in the crossfire.
The first attack ad to air in the race is aimed at Mayor Alvin Brown, a Democrat, and comes from Republican Lenny Curry's camp. The ad uses excerpts from Channel 4 newscasts, but Channel 4 is not endorsing any candidate.
The ad agency that created the ad did not have permission to use the newscast clips, but because of federal election laws, that permission isn't required.
WJXT general manager Bob Ellis was traveling Friday, but issued a statement regarding the ad:
"We expressed our displeasure to the advertising agency that produced the spot. We asked them to consider changing it. To be clear, News4Jax does not endorse any political candidates."
The ad attacks Brown, saying the mayor says one thing and does another. It cites property taxes going up 14 percent and then uses excerpts from Channel 4 broadcasts referring to that fact.
The ad goes on to talk about city waste and debt and again uses a small snippet on a News4Jax story from last summer.
Brown's deputy campaign manager Fabien Levy issued this statement about the ad:
"Party boss Lenny Curry is continuing the same sort of negative, partisan attacks he pushed as State Party Chair and is now lying to Jacksonville voters by covering up his support of the politicians that fought Mayor Brown to raise taxes on their own. Mayor Brown has never supported a tax increase and is the only one in this race that has looked for bipartisan solutions to solve Jacksonville's fiscal issues."
The ad is being paid for by a political action committee supporting Lenny Curry. Because it's from a PAC, Channel 4 can choose not to run it.
But the campaign is thinking of switching how it's paying for the commercial and may form another type of committee made up of several political candidates. If that happens and the committee meets federal law, News4Jax would be required to run the ad.
Political observers said this is just the beginning and voters should expect to see many more ads like this in the future.
"The PACs have a little bit more flexibility," said Michael Binder, political science assistant professor at the University of North Florida. "It allows the candidate to distance themselves, so when you see the negative advertising oftentimes it comes from PACs. This way candidates can step back and say, 'Hey, it's not me. It's this PAC doing it. I am not advertising dirty. You see my campaign commercials are positive and uplifting and showing my message. It's just these PACs over here that are really ruining the process.'"
News4Jax contacted Curry about the negative ad, but he has not returned calls requesting comment. His campaign manager said the ad, which is paid for by the PAC, speaks for itself.
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