Council Feels State Politics' Pull Presidency Fight Draws Loyalty Call

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Galnor, Times-Union staff writer

The race for the City Council presidency may have as much to do with the Florida gubernatorial race in November as it does with local issues.

Council Vice President Suzanne Jenkins may not make the expected ascension to the city's second most powerful job in part because of her decision to help run the local campaign of Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Bill McBride.

Local GOP Chairman Tom Slade says he's pressing council Republicans to stay loyal to their party and not to let Jenkins use the presidency to trumpet McBride.

"Why would you put a loaded gun in the hand of someone who wants to shoot you with it?" Slade said yesterday.

Despite the backlash a GOP official felt last year when unsuccessfully pressuring Republicans to vote against Jenkins for vice president, Slade says he met recently with GOP council members to urge them to support one of their own.

Now, Republican Councilman Jerry Holland, five weeks before the council will choose its new leaders, has written commitments stapled to his office wall from from 10 of the council's 19 members. Though neither candidate considers the race over this early, the majority Holland holds is a serious indication he'll assume the council presidency and agenda-setting power.

While a majority in Holland's camp are longtime supporters, party affiliation was a major issue among some members thought to be swing votes.

"Jerry is a Republican and it's an election year," Councilman Jim Overton, a Republican, said, explaining his commitment to Holland.

Party officials last year spoke out against GOP State Committeewoman Cindy Burgin's demand that Republicans support one of their own.

Slade declined to say which council members he spoke with but stressed a council with 12 Republicans and seven Democrats should have a Republican at the helm. …