Jacksonville Bold for 6.16.17 — Clique - Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 6.16.17 — Clique

Despite ideological differences, the people in a given legislative process tend to bond — and a vivid example was rendered this week when a gunman took shots at a Congressional baseball practice.

One Northeast Florida Republican, as you’ll see below, was close to being part of the wave of shots that led to the injury of Rep. Steve Scalise and others.

Despite the acrimonious tone in national politics, Republicans and Democrats both understand their shared reason for being in office: love of country, as all the public statements said.

Moments of a unity of purpose, however, are fleeting. Especially given how high the stakes are nationally right now, with a President prone to unexpected actions and upturning established precedents.

That said, we see other examples of unity — currently, Gov. Rick Scott is barnstorming the state for mutual admiration rallies with State Reps. Who called that a few months ago?

Ultimately, politics is a game of shared purpose. The means to achieve ends diverge, as do the donors. But the reality is that governmental bodies succeed or fail as much on the ability to coalesce internally as any external factor.

Close call for Ron DeSantis

Rep. DeSantis narrowly missed being part of Wednesday’s apparently targeted shooting of GOP congressmen, he related after the incident.

The Marineland Republican told FOX Business Network hours after the shooting that the “guy … walked up [to him and colleague Jeff Duncan] … Asking whether it was Republicans or Democrats out there.”

Ron DeSantis was a highly sought guest in the wake of Wednesday’s incident.

DeSantis continued: “we left about ten after 7. I think shots began you know within 3-5 minutes after that.

“We reported to police that there was a gentleman that confronted us when we were going to our car, and he wanted to know whether it was Republicans or Democrats that were out there. We said it was Republicans and he kind of started walking to the field.

“I don’t know if that was the guy, but I think it’s important to put that information out there and it was a little bit different than someone would do that. He was really interested in wanting to know who was out there.”

John Rutherford on House Judiciary Committee

Former Jacksonville Sheriff Rutherford, a Capitol Hill freshman, was appointed to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.

Rutherford is “excited” about the appointment “to a strong committee focused on upholding the Constitution,” per a statement from his office.

John Rutherford prioritizes the “rule of law” on Judiciary.

“As a former Sheriff, I have committed my life to strengthening the justice system in Northeast Florida, and I am grateful for this opportunity to support the rule of law across our nation,” Rutherford said.

Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte spoke favorably of his fellow Republican also.

“As a former law enforcement officer and sheriff of Duval County, Florida, Congressman Rutherford brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Committee. His expertise on our criminal justice system makes him particularly well suited to serve on the Judiciary Committee. I look forward to working with John to advance our pro-growth agenda, focused on growing the American economy and ensuring that our laws are efficient, fair and enforced,” Goodlatte said.

It is Rutherford’s third committee: he also is on Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

Divisions in D.C. ‘frustrating’ Rutherford

Rutherford, new to D.C., told Roll Call he was surprised by divisions in the GOP caucus itself this week.

“I think what’s probably surprised me most is the differences within the Republican caucus. You think that everybody comes from the same experience and background. In some places, I’d be a staunch conservative, and in other places of the country, I’d be a moderate. It’s interesting to see how that works in the family,” Rutherford said.

The family, said Rutherford, could be more unified: “to come from the executive side, or at least what feels like the executive side, to the legislative branch, is a little frustrating because I’m used to, as a sheriff, I say, ‘Take the hill’ and my team would come together and take the hill.”

A former House Speaker likened the job to ‘herding cats.’ John Rutherford would agree.

“Heck, they’d even take a bullet to take that hill because they believe in something bigger than themselves. Up here, the speaker says, ‘Take the hill,’ and somebody says, ‘We’ll take ‘that’ hill ‘[indicating a different hill].”

Speaker Paul Ryan, Rutherford noted, “said one time that being the speaker is like walking through a graveyard — you’re above a lot of people but they ain’t listening to you. That’s been an interesting situation.”

Al Lawson files bill to protect Social Security solvency

Rep. Lawson, along with Democratic co-sponsors, filed a bill this week to protect Social Security until 2049.

“Social Security plays a critical role in our economy as it provides for over two-thirds of our nation’s retirees, and provides financial security to millions of disabled workers and their children,” said Rep. Lawson.

For Al Lawson and Dems, protecting Social Security is a winning issue. Where’s the House GOP on this one?

“However, as the program is currently operating, the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted by 2034. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Social Security for Future Generations Act of 2017, along with 17 co-sponsors and support from six organizations, including Social Security Works and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare,” Lawson added.

Bad motion rising for Corrine Brown?

Count attorney Anthony Suarez — who represents former Brown co-defendant Ronnie Simmons — as skeptical of Brown’s motions for acquittal and a new trial.

“I’ve examined the motions and believe they’re not strong enough because they don’t cite a lot of case law,” said Suarez. “They’re not going to be successful.”

Anthony Suarez, like Corrine Brown’s lawyer James Smith, is better known in the 407 than the 904.

Simmons struck a plea deal with the feds in February, pleading guilty on two counts, with his sentencing contingent on substantial cooperation with the feds.

Predicating Brown’s motion for a new trial was a claim that the juror who got bounced because he was compelled in decision-making by the Holy Spirit was removed erroneously. And the motion for acquittal was predicated on essentially re-litigating the trial, to again make the case that Brown was Simmons’ patsy — a case that didn’t fly with the jury the last go-round.

Northeast Florida Fundraising Roundup

Though Rep. Paul Renner’s political committee was the clubhouse leader in Northeast Florida fundraising in May with $261,500, donors didn’t shy away from other committees and candidates.

Below are those who have reported thus far with May numbers.

Among committees of note: Lenny Curry’s “Build Something That Lasts” brought in $27,000. Sen. Rob Bradley‘s “Working for Florida’s Families” brought in $20,000 (keeping it over $400,000 on hand). And “Pledge This Day,” Rep. Jay Fant‘s committee devoted now to his run for Attorney General, brought in just $9,000 in May.

On the hard money front, Fant did better, with $79,575 of new funding; of that sum, $8,000 came from Fant and $3,000 from the committee.

The Fants appear delighted with their first month’s haul.

Sen. Aaron Bean brought in $3,500 of new money, bringing him to just over $20,000 on hand. Rep. Clay Yarborough‘s $6,100 of May money gives him over $14,000 on hand to defend a safe Republican seat in House District 12. on Jacksonville’s Southside.

In HD 17, St. Johns’ Rep. Cyndi Stevenson saw $750 of new money. In HD 24, Rep. Renner saw $2,500 in hard money, with all the action on the committee level.

State Reps make up with Rick Scott

Break up to make up? The joint appearance of three State Representatives hammered by Gov. Scott during the regular session in Jacksonville Beach Tuesday reveals that politics is a transitory business.

Reps. Jason Fischer, Cord Byrd, and Travis Cummings showed at the Governor’s rally, and all had glowing things to say.

ProTip: When appearing with Rallyin’ Rick Scott, make sure your blue shirts match.

Byrd discussed the transformational education bill. Fischer quipped that “the Governor signed most of the budget into law.” And Cummings?

“The Governor vetoed a project or two of mine, but that’s OK,” Cummings said, given the need for tourist funding via VISIT Florida — a remarkable shift in position.

One of those projects was big for Jacksonville: $15M in money for septic tank removal that didn’t make the cut.

We asked Cummings about the anomaly of being feted by a Governor who just months back aimed robocalls at him.

“Politics is a strange business,” Cummings said.

GrayRobinson talks Tallahassee

The Jax Daily Record offered a fascinating look into GrayRobinson’s state lobbying team, as it prepared for “extra innings,” via the Special Session.

This week, the lobbyists had a “panel wrap-up” of the regular Legislative Session, flush with interesting quotes.

GrayRobinson panelists served up real talk about the Legislative Session this week.

This from one panelist, shareholder Chris Carmody: “The House gets in line and takes orders from the top. The Senate is more a group of individuals.”

And this, regarding Rick Scott’s active veto pen, which seemed most targeted at legislators who bucked his call for economic incentives during the spring.

“There’s no doubt the governor didn’t hold back his frustration on certain House votes,” Carmody said.

As seen above, at least three of the legislators made their peace with the veto pen.

JaxPort, City Councilors talk dredging costs

There are knowns and known unknowns when it comes to dredging the St. Johns River, reported the Florida Times-Union this week.

“The city’s share of the cost for deepening the St. Johns River for cargo ships could be as high as $150.7 million or as low as $47 million, according to scenarios for how to pay for the $484 million project,” writes David Bauerlein.

As deepening approaches, cost projection ranges widen.

Hopes are that the city will see federal money defray much of the estimated $484M cost, and these hopes are bolstered by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who told us about his trip to DC last week.

Trump, Cabinet officials, and staffers were “soliciting ideas from states and cities on how to get things moving,” Curry said.

“Relationships are evolving,” Curry added.

Katrina Brown ‘no comment’ on default suit

Councilwoman Brown is title manager for two companies subject to a default motion from the city for incentive funds, a $210K clawback for creating zero jobs since grants and loans in 2011. What did she have to say about it this week?

Regarding a town hall this week, she wasn’t worried about questions: “They won’t be able to bring it up,” Brown said.

No, Katrina Brown isn’t ducking questions. She just has a microphone allergy.

She didn’t want media questions either.

“I continue to tell you no comment. You can ask me a thousand times and I would still say no comment,” Brown said.

Luckily for Brown, the companies are LLCs. And this is Jacksonville, where a certain amount of lagniappe goes into the sauce.

The Feds may feel differently about the SBA loan though.

Katrina Brown has a challenger

2019 is just around the corner in Jacksonville politics, as Diallo Sekous challenge to Katrina Brown indicates.

Sekou, a community activist, thinks Brown has flopped as a counselor.

“The people deserve better than what’s been ‘sitting and not sitting’ in that seat,” Sekou said.

Diallo Sekou and Lenny Curry size each other up, with Katrina Brown in between them.

“This district is in need of serious economic development and restructuring to help create a better situation than what’s been taking place for the last 50 years,” Sekou added.

Katrina Brown’s entropy, Sekou said, isn’t helping.

“There’s nothing being done that’s impactful or sustainable. Her first two years are things the last councilperson set in place, or the mayor has set forth. District 8 cannot be seen as just ‘some area.’ It is in serious need and requires a great deal of attention, and by missing half of the [City Council’s] meetings she’s showing the concern the council person has for her district.

Sekou faces challenges. Brown will have support from the public-sector unions and other sources, and Sekou will have to run a grassroots campaign.

Gaff Gaffe?

Katrina Brown’s BFF on Council, Reggie Gaffney, has some issues of his own.

Community Rehabilitation Center — best known for its cameo appearances in the Corrine Brown trial and a Medicaid overbilling scandal — is back in the news this week.

The subject this time: a late-May whistleblower lawsuit in Florida’s 4th Circuit, filed by an employee who alleges that she was “unlawfully terminated” by the nonprofit … after she was allegedly exposed to risk from HIV-positive clients without proper training and licensure. [Complaint against CRC].

Reggie Gaffney took a council seat in 2015. His most interesting coverage has been nonlegislative though.

When she went to Gaffney for recourse, she was frustrated, and told by a superior that he would say anything “to get you out of his face.”

She was fired soon after that, and the case has been filed in Florida’s 4th Circuit.

Big rip-off Down Under

Despite the efforts of Florida politicians ranging from both Senators to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, it appears that an Australian bank may get away with stealing $44M from an energy company with Jacksonville ties: APR Energy — as an Aussie kangaroo court sided with the bank Down Under over the foreign property owner Thursday.

In early 2014 APR leased tens of millions of dollars’ worth of U.S.-manufactured General Electric Co. turbines and other equipment to Forge Group, which went bankrupt weeks later.

APR still owned the equipment, and the lease stipulated the equipment would be returned. However, ANZ seized the equipment, exploiting bad Australian law.

APR can get the equipment back — after three years of depreciation — by posting a $44M line of credit to the bank.

Money lacks personhood, yes. But this is a hostage crisis, and a very real provocation to Jacksonville, Floridian and American interests.

Former Clay schools Superintendent Charlie Van Zant Jr. cleared of ethics violation

The Florida Commission on Ethics cleared former Clay County Schools Superintendent Van Zant of accusations by a former high school principal. Former Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High School Susan Sailor accused Van Zant of plagiarizing her research to get a professional certification resulting in a pay raise.

Charlie Van Zant, recently cleared of plagiarism by the Florida Ethics Commission.

Sailor accused Van Zant of taking her research to produce a paper without attribution to earn a leadership certification from the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. That certification led to a pay raise for Van Zant, an elected official with a salary set by the state.

The Florida Times-Union reports that the ethics commission determined there was no probable cause to believe Van Zant violated state law by using public resources to receive the certification.

For Jacksonville, Donald Trump means White House access

Trump barely carried Duval County in 2016. Yet, for Jacksonville power brokers, the Trump era has meant access to the White House. The most recent manifestation of that, reports AG Gancarski, was just this week, as a JAX Chamber delegation was received by one of the more influential people in Trump’s orbit: Omarosa Manigault.

Manigault has a Jacksonville connection. She recently married Pastor John Newman, and she is spending many weekends here in Duval County. (Newman was also at the White House event).

Kellyanne Conway visits the JAX Chamber delegation.

Marty Fiorentino, of the Fiorentino Group, has done significant work already with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao — a relationship worth its weight in gold as Jacksonville’s crumbling infrastructure may get a restorative reprieve from the Trumpian infrastructure plan.

Susie Wiles, as campaign chair during the stretch run, arguably won Florida for Trump, rescuing a Sunshine State operation that couldn’t get out of its own way. The president and his staff won’t forget that.

Fiorentino, Wiles, Manigault: no one would have predicted that troika as having a direct line to the executive branch in 2016, when Trump’s political obituary was written daily as he battled Hillary Clinton.

Legislative staffing merry-go-round 

Via Lobby ToolsOff: Garrett Mann has stopped being the district secretary for Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jason Fischer.

What’s Aaron Bean doing this week?

Fernandina Beach Republican Sen. Bean will be the keynote speaker at the Jacksonville PACE Center for Girls graduation and receive PACE’s Believing in Girls award in recognition of his leadership in the Legislature. The event begins 10 a.m. at the JU Swisher Theatre, 2800 University Boulevard North in Jacksonville.

On Tuesday, June 20, Bean (will address participants of the 74th Session of the Florida American Legion Boys State leadership program. The event begins 1:40 p.m. at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, 505 W Pensacola Street in Tallahassee.

UF Health intensive care unit honored for nursing excellence

The UF Health Jacksonville medical intensive care received a Silver Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses for improved patient care for some of Jacksonville’s sickest patients.

“We care for adult patients with complex medical conditions requiring advanced treatment modalities, so we see some of the worst cases,” said Jackqulynne Stratton, RN, nurse manager of the MICU. “Patients admitted to our unit often require complex assessment, high-intensity therapies and interventions, and continuous supervision.”

With 28 beds in the MICU, patients are transferred there from the Emergency Department and Post Anesthesia Care Unit after surgery. The unit also regularly attends to patients transferred from other areas of the hospital.

“We typically work 12-hour shifts three days a week and an on-call shift once a month,” Stratton said. “also, we have to complete mandatory continuing education courses and rely heavily on our specialized knowledge, skills and experience. We also work hard to provide a nurturing and healing environment for our patients and their families.”

Jumbo Shrimp celebrates ‘You might be the Father’s Day’ by giving pregnancy tests

If being named the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp was not enough to garner attention, the minor league baseball team adds something special to its regular Thirsty Thursday promotion — You Might Be the Father’s Day.

“You’ll know if you need to return for Sunday’s Father’s Day game,” with “an evening filled with suspense, intrigue and manila envelopes.”

In honor of Father’s Day, the Florida Times-Union reports that the Jumbo will distribute free pregnancy tests at Thursday’s game.

“So you’ll know if you need to return for Sunday’s Father’s Day game,” the Shrimp website says. “It will be an evening filled with suspense, intrigue and manila envelopes.”

Unusual promotions like this, a staple of minor league baseball, has made its mark on the former Jacksonville Suns — so far this season, General Manager Harold Craw told the Times-Union, the team averages about 5,600 fans a game, an increase of 1,500 over last season. But Thirsty Thursdays are the team’s third most popular day, after Friday and Saturday.

Armada break historic losing streak with stunning 4-1 win in Indianapolis 

The Jacksonville Armada FC said goodbye to its winless history against Indy Eleven with a club record 4-1 win in Indianapolis Saturday, reports Kartik Krishnaiyer. The Armada’s win keeps them on the heels of Miami FC atop the NASL Spring Season table.

“Indy [is] a top team,” said Armada FC head coach Mark Lowry. “Even at 3-1 and 4-1, I couldn’t relax. They have a lot of weapons on the field and credit to those guys; they didn’t stop.”

Jack Blake opened the scoring for the Armada only four minutes into the game. Taking a penalty after Derek Gebhard was fouled, Blake’s initial shot was deflected off Indy goalkeeper Jon Busch, but Blake was quick to find the rebound and the back of the net.

“We have to keep our wits about us, staying aware to be disciplined and do our job.” — Armada Coach Mark Lowry

Indy Eleven was able to equalize six minutes later when 2016 NASL leading scorer Éamon Zayed headed the ball in past Caleb Patterson-Sewell following a corner.

Both sides then struggled to convert an opportunity until the 41st minute when Gebhard ran the ball down. After meeting fierce defense, he sent the ball to J.C. Banks, who found the space to get it in and put the Armada back into the lead.

An altercation in first half stoppage time led to a yellow card given to Blake and Indy’s Lovel Palmer being ejected from the match. The teams went into halftime with Armada FC leading by one goal and Indy being down to 10 men.

Banks kept the momentum going into the second half and netted his second goal in the 50th minute. Following a corner kick, he found himself in front of the net to tap in a shot fired by Jemal Johnson around the 18-yard line.

The final goal for the Armada FC came in the 60th minute by Gebhard. Johnson was there again with the assist and sent the ball toward the net. It then only took one touch by Gebhard to give Armada the fourth goal.

“They put us under a good bit of pressure but luckily we had a good lead before we lost our goalkeeper,” said Lowry.

Patterson-Sewell was ejected in the 68th minute from the match after a handball outside the penalty area. With both teams down to 10 men, Jemal Johnson was subbed out so Kyle Nasta could fill the goalkeeper position.

Nasta held strong right after taking the pitch in his NASL debut. He immediately faced a free kick but saved the ball by knocking it out. Five more shots were sent toward the goal, but he saved each one and kept Indy Eleven from notching another goal.

“[Nasta] went in and made some great saves,” said Lowry. “He showed the composure, and we believe in him. In terms of shot-stopping, he’s fantastic.”

The Armada victory was the first over Indy Eleven in Indianapolis, and the second loss Indy faced at home this season. The wins secured Jacksonville’s second place seat and set the stage for another top-of-the-table battle against the Miami FC Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Ricardo Silva Stadium in Miami. If the Armada win, they will jump to within two points of Miami FC atop the NASL standings.

Meanwhile, at Patton Park, the Armada’s U-23 team beat Boca Raton FC 4-0. The win allowed the Armada U-23 to leapfrog Boca Raton into fourth place in the NPSL Sunshine Conference Standings. In a game largely controlled by the home team, Boca Raton hung around until the dying minutes when a Ciaran McKenna brace, the second scored a floating finish of world-class quality sunk the hopes of the visitors.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, Florida Politics, Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of the quarterly INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, SaintPetersBlog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
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