Local GOP upset over Bill Bishop endorsing Alvin Brown for mayor

Opponent Lenny Curry calls Bishop's decision 'a political calculation'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One month after Bill Bishop, city councilman and third-place finisher in the primary in the mayor, said he would not endorse either remaining candidate, he announced he is backing Alvin Brown.

"The best mayor the next four years, the man who has held the office for the last four years," Bishop said.

Not everyone is happy about the endorsement though.

The head of the local Republican Party is blasting Bishop for a few reasons, a big one being that Bishop signed a Party Loyalty Oath in 2012 which said he would only endorse Republicans and now that oath has apparently been broken with the endorsement of Brown.

"It's been non-stop unbridled criticism of the Brown administration and we all gave mayor Brown a honeymoon, but after he demonstrated an inability to lead this city I've heard Mr. Bishop be one of the harshest critics of Mayor Brown since I've been serving on city council," Duval GOP Chairman Robin Lumb said. 

Bishop said he has met with both Brown and Lenny Curry and asked specific questions that they had avoided answering during the primary, including their stance on the Human Rights Ordinance. He liked what he heard from Brown.

"The answer that I got was the action the mayor took recently in having the general counsel office study the issue carefully and seeing where we need to go," Brown said. "I believe the results of that is going to end up putting Jacksonville in a good place."

Bishop also noted several accomplishments of Brown's first term, including the port, downtown development and especially noted the efforts made toward pension reform.

"Even though we have differed very publicly on how to get it done, Mayor Brown has done more than any mayor before," Bishop said.

Bishop, a registered Republican, drew 30,944 votes, or 17 percent, in Jacksonville's first election. He said neither candidate asked for his endorsement, but he was solicited by campaign staff for both Republican Curry and Democrat Brown.

"I am proud to be endorsed by Councilman Bill Bishop, a true public servant who has dedicated his life to Jacksonville and the people of our great city," Brown said. "We both share a vision for growing our downtown; protecting our greatest natural treasure, the St. Johns River; and working across party lines to grow Jacksonville's economy and make it a safer place to live for our families and loved ones."

Bishop said he encouraged those who voted for him in the primary to support Brown in general election and will spend the next three weeks helping the Brown campaign.

Curry told News4Jax he thinks Bishop's decision was a strictly political.

"Bill Bishop came in third in the first election. He immediately announced his intention to be a candidate for mayor in 2019. It's pretty clear to me he made a political calculation that it would be more difficult to face a strong incumbent, so I wish Bill Bishop well and I am going to continue to share my vision with undecided voters."

While Bishop has critics from the Republican side, News4Jax political analyst Jennifer Carroll said Bishop has appeared to be a more centrist Republican, voting for issues like the human rights ordinance which would have given protections locally to the LGBT community in housing and hiring, an ordinance that failed the council.

"If you remember the first election, the primary election, he took positions that were counter to what people would consider him as a Republican. For example supporting the gay rights initiative and supporting higher taxes to balance the budget in the Jacksonville area so it doesn't surprise me," Carroll said.

Bishop will leave City Council in June after serving two terms.

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