JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – What was supposed to be an event touting collaboration on community projects to improve Northwest Jacksonville turned instead into a public feud involving Mayor Lenny Curry.
It started innocuously as Curry joined council members Reginald Brown, Katrina Brown, Reggie Gaffney and Sam Newby for lunch Thursday afternoon at Potter’s House Soul Food Bistro on Lenox Avenue.
The five city leaders dined and spent some time in front of a throng of news cameras, promoting a series of projects and achievements in their districts, including upgrades to parks and sewage infrastructure.
"We are here today with these four members of city council that have been collaborative and worked with me personally and my administration," Curry said as the group spoke.
Left off the invite list was Councilman Garrett Dennis, who represents the district where the popular restaurant is located. He took issue with the snub when he did show up, calling it "unfortunate."
"The mayor touts one city, one Jacksonville, but does something contrary to the rhetoric he speaks," Dennis told News4Jax reporter Jim Piggott.
According to a report from Florida Politics, Dennis was far more outspoken at times, claiming he's been threatened and has heard rumors the mayor plans to run a challenger against him.
Asked about his own political aspirations, Dennis was cryptic about whether he intended to run for the mayor's office: "A politician can never say never, but I do plan on running for re-election."
For his part, Curry dismissed the characterization that the councilman was deliberately excluded from the lunch. He said Dennis never sought help for any projects in the councilman's district.
"Unfortunately, I never had a specific ask from the council person for a project in that district," the mayor said.
Others on hand offered a different take on the scene of several Democrats standing alongside Curry, a Republican. Lisa King, chair of the Duval County Democratic Party, wasn't surprised.
"He practices the politics of division, so he tries to drive wedges in between people," King said.