JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Crime was already the top issue in Jacksonville's race for mayor and sheriff before numerous shootings and six killings dominated headlines over the last four days.
With Jacksonville voters heading to the polls next month, will the violence sway voters choice for the city's top administrative and law enforcement officials?
The University of North Florida's Public Opinion Research Lab was already working on a poll of likely voters in the city election. Its director, Michael Binder, said violence was already by far voters' top concern, but he doesn't believe anything happening on the streets of Jacksonville would be enough to move enough votes away from re-electing Mayor Lenny Curry.
"We’ve had a lot of these weekends of shootings. I think it would take something extraordinary to really impact the trajectory of this race," Binder said.
Four years ago, Curry won office by hammering incumbent Mayor Alvin Brown over the amount of violent crime during his term. With the rate of violent crime about the same and the number of murders actually higher than in 2015, Curry's opponents are using that against him.
Three of the four candidates for mayor on the ballot in the March 19 non-partisan race are Republicans. That includes Jimmy Hill and the person widely considered Curry's top challenger, Councilwoman Anna Brosche. Brosche calls this the Curry Crime Wave and has openly solicited the support of Democratic voters.
The fourth candidate, Omega Allen, has no party affiliation. She could also draw some votes from Democrats.
"So that’s an opportunity for her," Binders said. "Also, she’s the only African American in this race. Remember four years ago, Alvin Bown was there to absorb a lot of those African-American Democratic votes. Anna Brosche is making a play for those votes, but it’s certainly something that could help Omega Allen."
Curry's campaign manager responded Monday to the criticism over the increase in gun crime on his watch by saying he is fighting it every day and that Brosche should not politicize violence with catchphrases.
Brosche has said she wants to invest in prevention and intervention in crime-plagued neighborhoods.
Hill wants City Hall to have better relationships with community groups
Allen wants stricter gun control regulations and a focus on jobs in areas of town where gangs are found.
UNF's poll, to be released Wednesday on News4Jax, won't be the first in the mayor's race. Last week, St. Pete Polls found 58 percent of likely voters would support Curry. Brosche was in second place in that poll, showing 20 percent.
Binder is familiar with that poll. He says the weekend of violence might have changed things a little, but probably not enough to keep Curry from getting to the 50 percent of the votes needed to win in March without having to compete in the city's run-off election in May.
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