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How DC riots could leave an impact on Jacksonville political landscape

One political expert said it will bode well if local Republicans distance themselves from what happened in Washington DC last week.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Local Republicans are condemning the violent attack on the US Capitol. That riot is putting law enforcement officials on alert to prepare for unrest not just in DC, but around the country.

Despite last week’s insurrection, one of Jacksonville’s GOP leaders say their party’s future remains bright.

“What we saw play out last week was appalling and deeply regrettable, and a stain on the Republic frankly," Dean Black, chairman of the Duval County Republican Party, said. "It occurred though, against the backdrop of a series of acts of political violence over the past several years.” 

Black said he is not excusing the behavior of the protesters at the Capitol, or the behavior of what he said were political protests that occurred this summer during the social justice movement in wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Black said he is optimistic of the GOP’s future when mid-term elections arrive.

“The truth is, we have a future that’s very hopeful in the Republican party," Black said. "We’re not happy about the election results at the top of the ticket, we very much wanted to re-elect President Trump, however we cannot forget we almost took Congress."

Despite President Trump’s loss, Black says those gains made elsewhere could stop Democrats from making what he calls radical changes.

“Like, ‘defund the police’ for example. And they are going to try and implement those things, and when they do, ordinary working citizens in Duval County and Northeast Florida, they are going to come up out of their chair,” Black said.

UNF political science professor Mike Binder is not sure what lasting effects the DC insurrection could have on the party.

“The elites, the elected officials, the vast majority whom are in some ways reliant on a lot of the votes that Trump got a couple of months ago, they’re in a tough position,” Binder said.

“Not all 74 million of the Trump voters are rabid, crazed, marching on Capitols and state houses, but some of them are, and how you balance that is a difficult issue for the Republican Party," Binder added. "Trump leaving office was always going to be problematic for Republicans because he did bring in new voters and that helped a lot of people as we saw in the elections a few months ago.” 

He said there is a juxtaposition of President Trump losing but the rest of the party doing well.

How it impacts Jacksonville voters remains to be seen.

“This isn’t a blue county by any stretch of the imagination," Binder said. "But it’s not the old red one it used to be. We’ve seen a lot in the last week of real opposition to John Rutherford and his stance and at least objecting to the election certifications for some states."

Binder said that issues like the outcome of a federal investigation into the botched JEA sale attempt or the pending agreement to develop Lot J, which may hurt the party's strength locally.

“Even though [Mayor] Curry made efforts to bring the RNC here in the summer, I think that hurt him a little bit," Binder said. "I think the more the Republicans can distance themselves from DC, the better off they are."

As voters may be inclined to change their party registration, Black suspects any voters who leave the GOP will still vote for conservative policies and figures in the future elections.

“After they take a moment to process everything that’s just happened, many of them will be coming back and we will be reaching out to them,” Black said.