In campaigns, there is always a watershed moment when all the gauzy, aspirational rhetoric fades — like so many temporary tattoos — replaced by the hard realities of campaign finance and infrastructure.
For races on the 2018 ballot, we are there — even if some candidates haven’t figured it out.
If one is looking to win a primary in August, as many Democrats have to do this year locally, one might think that the campaign would be in high gear. The money would be in place. The team would be working.
We see that with some candidates (for example, who is working harder this cycle than Tracye Polson in her state House race?). With others, we don’t (consider Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, who hasn’t done anything in his challenge to Sen. Audrey Gibson but buy campaign T-shirts).
The most prominent campaign event this week was the Governor’s rally Wednesday. Lots of incumbents and prospective candidates on hand; some should have taken notes.
In some quarters, People malign Rick Scott as a checkbook candidate. But he assembles the best team, has resources to message, and understands the discipline needed for such message.
He’s been working the same speech around the state, but he keeps refining it, getting more comfortable with the material. And, despite mourning a trusted aide, he has learned to reflect the affinity of the crowd. His smiles seem natural now.
And Bill Nelson is in for a fight.
As any incumbent can tell you: build the infrastructure before you need it. Because you will need it sooner than you think.
Scott Senate rollout
Gov. Scott rolled out his Senate campaign in the Jacksonville market Wednesday, with a stop at Ring Power on the Southside.
Scott’s political committee has sent out prepared remarks for each local event that have been the same as those sent out for the launch in Orlando Monday.
However, at least in Jacksonville, he deviated from the remarks, adding new details about retiring $9 billion in state debt during his tenure — a tacit allusion to the Congressional Budget Office predictions of increasing deficits over the next decade, subtly noting that Florida is not on that fiscal path under his watch.
Throughout his 10-minute speech, the Governor was upbeat, in “happy warrior” mode.
The local Democratic Party had called for protests; however, if there were protesters, they were not noticed by this reporter or other media on hand.
Scott drew a crowd of roughly 300, including numerous members of the Duval County Legislative Delegation and the Jacksonville City Council, as well as people who hope to serve in Tallahassee or City Hall.
Soderberg rakes in more campaign donations
Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations during the Bill Clinton presidency, posted another impressive quarter of fundraising in her bid to succeed Republican Ron DeSantis in Congress.
Per a media release: Soderberg raised $375,000 in the first quarter of 2018. Soderberg raised $920,000 during her bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.
The media release does not give an indication of what’s been spent this quarter; however, by the end of 2017, Soderberg raised $544,636, with $376,000 on hand.
This puts her ahead of other Democrats in the race. Stephen Sevigny has nearly $227,000 on hand; John Upchurch, just over $123,000.
Republicans running for the seat have yet to file fundraising reports or issue media releases.
The cash on hand leader as of the end of 2017 was Republican John Ward, a businessman living in Ponte Vedra, somewhat to the north of the district that runs from southern St. Johns to Volusia counties.
Ward, who loaned his campaign $500,000, had $644,000 on hand.
Brown, Lawson make moves in congressional primary clash
The Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, a cartographical anomaly that sprawls from downtown Jacksonville west to Tallahassee, saw some moves this week by both incumbent Al Lawson and challenger Alvin Brown.
Lawson’s campaign showed its first signs of engagement, with the hire of self-styled “hip-hop lobbyist” Phillip Singleton as the campaign’s “senior adviser,” handling fundraising and outreach.
Singleton’s comments in the media release seem to suggest that Lawson’s efforts thus far in the campaign have been lacking.
“I am ready to hit-the-ground-running and re-energize our donor and voter base,” said Singleton.
Alvin Brown also is making moves, though it is difficult to tell if his latest will help in a Democratic primary.
Brown dined with right-wing talk radio host Ed Dean this week, a curious move … even with Dean hosting a straw poll this weekend on the Southside.
Dean’s listeners tend to be Tea Party/Trump Republicans, few of whom will vote in the Democratic primary in CD 5.
Brown, of course, is no stranger to outreach to the right wing — a triangulation strategy he used when running for Jacksonville Mayor.
In an ordinary Democratic primary, it would be easy to imagine a digital ad proclaiming Brown to be a tool of the right.
However, those with memories going back two years will recall Trump’s Florida co-chair Susie Wiles helping to pitch Lawson to Jacksonville media as he ran against Corrine Brown.
Gibson slams Scott, lauds ‘moderate’ Nelson
Senate Minority Leader-Designate Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, excoriated Scott upon his U.S. Senate campaign launch Monday.
“Rick Scott cannot erase seven years of leaving behind my constituents and others throughout this state and now try to take his same show to Washington. His jobs incentive programs have not provided real jobs to the average Floridian because he counts failed potential job creation as a Florida job,” Gibson said.
Scott’s relationship with President Donald Trump, Gibson asserted, is something voters should “definitely” consider, given Trump’s lack of “decorum” and “predictability.”
Besides, Gibson joked, Trump may not be President for very much longer.
As well, Gibson doubted Scott’s ability to be a “consensus builder,” which “moderate” Nelson has been for years.
“He may not necessarily characterize himself that way,” Gibson said of Nelson as a moderate, but lauded his ability to “build a bridge” and bring “balance to his position as a Senator.”
Additionally, Scott is as much a “career politician” as Nelson, Gibson said, given that he’s running for one office from another.
Could Dem take Fant House seat?
The race to replace Rep. Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s House District 15 continues, and March showed evidence of more traction from Democrat Polson.
For one thing, she’s up nine points in a poll her campaign commissioned — a major shock when one considers that for years no Democrat even bothered to run in the traditional GOP sinecure.
Polson, the sole Democrat running to replace the Attorney General hopeful, reports a combined March fundraising total of $30,821.00. She’s raised $174,103 between her campaign and political committee accounts, with $113,635 on hand.
“We have been knocking on doors since Veterans Day and one thing is very clear,” said Polson. “Voters are looking for a new leader to send to Tallahassee.”
To win that race in November, Polson will have to beat a Republican; currently, three are vying for the nomination.
In HD 15, Jacksonville land use attorney Wyman Duggan now faces two Republican opponents in the primary and trouble on the fundraising front. For the second straight month, he raised just over $2,000; he has just over $95,000 cash on hand.
Duggan leads Republicans Mark Zeigler and Joseph Hogan in fundraising.
Other races were less interesting, but you can read more about them here.
Brosche goes in on Curry
More harsh words between Jacksonville’s City Council President and Mayor.
Lenny Curry went on TV and put Anna Brosche on blast. Brosche responded in kind.
“As for his messaging against me, I am, quite frankly, surprised to be an object of his constant attention, one requiring a messaging campaign. While he is focused on the dynamic of our unhealthy relationship, I am going to continue my efforts to serve the people of Jacksonville, and keep asking questions to make sure everything adds up for the people,” Brosche added.
Of course, the central battleground for this conflict, at this point, is the special committee to explore the potential sale of Jacksonville’s utility, JEA.
After two consecutive Thursdays in which he took tough questions from that committee, JEA CEO Paul McElroy decided his time was up and stepped down from the highest paying public position in the city.
For Brosche, this decision adds to the current “uncertainty” surrounding the utility.
“Uncertainty has been a frequent term used in the process of evaluating a potential sale of JEA; Paul’s departure brings no exception,” she added.
Speaking of JEA … a new ad
“Tell Lenny JEA is not for sale”: the latest digital ad from Florida Committee for Infrastructure Investment.
The spot, which will have a $5000+ ad buy, will appear starting Monday on digital channels and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, per the news release.
Can unions keep up with Lenny Curry in the ad game?
The spot weaves together a narrative from local media accounts, charging Curry with taking actions to move forward with a sale of Jacksonville’s public utility despite a declared agnosticism to the topic beyond a “mature conversation” about the value of the “asset.”
“Everyone connected with the sale is also closely connected to the mayor,” asserts the copy. “According to a city auditor, Curry’s administration has been working behind your back preparing for a sale.”
A local union head expressed the rationale for the spot.
“While Lenny Curry continues to say that he is not a proponent of selling JEA, his actions are not matching his words. Our ad simply connects the dots based on evidence provided by local media. We do hope that the Mayor will listen to the will of the people and stop this push to sell JEA,” asserts D. Jason Baber, vice president of the Professional Employees Association.
“While we understand it takes a vote of council to actually sell JEA, we are asking that the Mayor as the leader of this city publicly end what we believe he started. We are asking that he publicly come out and say he is against the sale of JEA,” Baber adds. “If he is unwilling to do this, we know he and any candidate he supports wishes to sell JEA against the will of the people.”
Local unions released a statement opposing the exploration of a sale of the utility last week; this week, they continue pushing the narrative.
It remains to be seen if this will ultimately affect Curry’s re-election bid, however. The Mayor faces no credible opposition and raised $1.5 million in campaign funds in March, his first month as a filed candidate.
Sheriff raises $400K for re-election
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams is back to fundraising in earnest for his re-election bid, and both committee and hard money coffers are healthy after a strong March.
Williams brought in $27,500 off 43 contributions to his campaign account, his most active month since launching last year.
He has raised $179,450 and has over $175,000 on hand.
His political committee, A Safe Jacksonville, brought in $38,000 in March. The committee has $232,000 on hand.
All donations to the committee came either from the family of Tom Petway, the former JEA Board member who kicked off the latest debate regarding privatizing the utility, or the Sorensen family of Firehouse Subs fame.
Williams’ opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, raised no money for the second straight month, and has just over $200 banked.
Some interesting quotes in the Florida Times-Union regarding The District project.
The Peter Rummell development on Jacksonville Southside could result in $56 million of tax breaks, and $25 million of city infrastructure investment.
Yet some raise questions about the concept, currently being pushed hard by Councilwoman Lori Boyer.
Matt Schellenberg, who has said the project should have been put out for rebid years ago after the first of many stalls, questioned the wisdom of the investment.
“I would say if the city has that much money floating around, there are other areas in Jacksonville for that money,” the Mandarin Republican says.
This project would not be constructed for a few years, which leads to another question … one of timing, posed by Councilman Bill Gulliford.
“I don’t know that I would want to invest my money in it because we’re looking at a cyclical economy that’s at the top of the cycle right now.”
Indeed, what will things look like in three years?
Regardless, the City Council will make the call. To the surprise of no one, the Downtown Investment Authority approved the deal this week.
Delaney joins Rogers Towers/Fiorentino Group initiative
The next move for former Jacksonville Mayor and University of North Florida President John Delaney was revealed Wednesday via media release. He will work as part of a strategic alliance between Rogers Towers and the Fiorentino Group.
The alliance, formed five years ago, includes collaboration on business and government affairs issues; business counsel; higher education issues; complex environmental matters and a variety of other government affairs needs at the local, state and federal levels.
Delaney is singularly positioned to help in these matters.
“John’s professional career has been one of the ‘most unique’ and diverse of almost anyone I know, and he brings to our clients’ needs a special perspective that will be of great value as they deal with legal issues as well as the ever-changing landscape of both the political world and government affairs arena,” said Fred Franklin, Rogers Towers managing director.
“John has been a part of some of Jacksonville’s most successful public policy initiatives,” said Marty Fiorentino, president of The Fiorentino Group. “His decades of experience in local, state and federal politics and tenure as president of one of Florida’s leading educational institutions has involved him in many complex issues where his leadership has had a real and positive impact. His addition to our team will provide exceptional added-value services as we develop winning strategies for our clients to influence public policy.”
“As I made my decision to retire from UNF, I looked for a new chapter to open in my career that offered me the chance to bring together the skills and experiences I have harnessed since starting out as a young lawyer working for former Mayor Ed Austin, when he served our community as State Attorney,” said Delaney.
“Having known Marty and Fred both personally and professionally over the years, I was aware of the great work their firms were doing. We collectively started a conversation that led to this decision. I look forward to working with the two of them and their teams to represent clients in a variety of areas both here in Northeast Florida and around the state and nation,” Delaney added.
Overton makes a political comeback
Jacksonville political veteran Jim Overton became the first of what could be many candidates for Duval County Tax Collector.
Overton, who filed this week, is no stranger to Duval County voters.
With Tillie Fowler‘s blessing, he ran to serve her unexpired term on City Council in 1992, serving two full terms after that. Overton subsequently served three terms as Duval County Property Appraiser.
Overton tells us that current tax collector Michael Corrigan, who is under consideration to be CEO of Visit Jacksonville, encouraged him to run.
Corrigan and Overton are friends outside of the political sphere, and Overton believes that Corrigan has done a “good job” in the role, and, if elected, he will keep the office on an “even keel” for the next couple of years.
Overton notes that the tax collector’s office is a “bigger shop” than the property appraisers, but otherwise believes it’s an “easy fit.”
Overton already knows many staff members in the office he seeks, and some encouraged him to run.
Overton’s entry in the race will likely force certain termed-out members of the Jacksonville City Council who have been eyeballing a run at the office to make moves or cut bait.
Council candidate Carlucci clears $250K raised
Jacksonville political veteran Matt Carlucci, a Republican running for City Council in at-large Group 4, became the first candidate this cycle to clear $250,000 raised.
And, audaciously, he is taking a break from fundraising … having hit his campaign budget.
Carlucci, who seeks to return to Jacksonville’s legislative body, drew from a diverse group of contributors again in March, as he brought in over $29,000.
Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, former City Council President Kevin Hyde, and former Council colleague Dick Kravitz, gave to Carlucci, as did Democrats, such as School Board member Warren Jones and City Council candidate Sunny Gettinger.
Corporate interests, such as the Haskell Company and J.B. Coxwell Contracting, likewise featured on the contribution list.
The $29,150 raised by Carlucci is his most significant single month haul since July 2017, and comes after another former councilman, Don Redman, became the second candidate in the race.
Boylan makes up ground in Council race
Two Republicans — former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan and Chamber candidate Rose Conry — are squaring off to replace termed-out Matt Schellenberg in Jacksonville City Council District 6.
Conry, while still the front-runner regarding money both raised and on-hand, lost some ground to Boylan in March.
Boylan raised $11,400, in his second straight month over five figures in fundraising. As evidence of a genuinely divided donor class in this race, such Jacksonville heavyweights as former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton’s Gate Petroleum, Preston Haskell and Jaguars/FPL lobbyist Paul Harden all ponied up for Boylan.
Conry’s operation is being run by Curry’s political adviser, Tim Baker; however, her $2,275 haul was the weakest of her six months as an active candidate. Among the donors to Conry in March: Bold City Strategic Partners and John Baker.
Despite the reversal in fortunes in March, Conry still holds leads in total money raised ($69,635 to $41,875) and cash on hand (approximately $63,400 to roughly $31,400).
Diamond banks $8K more
For those who might want to challenge Republican Rory Diamond as he runs to succeed termed-out Bill Gulliford on the Jacksonville City Council, it’s getting late.
Diamond, whose campaign is being handled by Curry’s political adviser Tim Baker, banked another respectable month of fundraising in March, raising $8,350. He now has raised $119,000, with over $113,000 on hand.
Among the names on Diamond’s latest report: Jacksonville investor Ashton Hudson, and University of North Florida Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Chris Warren.
Diamond has already outraised Gulliford in each of his runs. Gulliford, unopposed in his 2015 re-election bid, raised $95,000.
In 2011, when Gulliford initially won the office, he raised just over $47,000 (though he defeated Danny Becton, who raised $115,000).
JEA straw vote on November ballot
Two bills of note passed by the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening.
Straw ballot for JEA sale: 2018-141 will prime a straw ballot referendum for November to test the voters’ mood on a JEA sale.
The measure, sponsored by Garrett Dennis and John Crescimbeni (two skeptics of the need to sell), would, in theory, serve as a corrective to an impending sales pitch to sell from many directions.
Crescimbeni noted in committee that the straw ballot is nonbinding and merely gives direction on whether to “participate in that process … weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”
A rumor the bill would be pulled from Consent ultimately proved unfounded.
Board reform: 2018-165, also sponsored by Dennis, will bar an active member of a board from applying for a paid position with the organization controlled by the board.
This bill was drafted after Joe Peppers, a member of the Kids Hope Alliance board who has since stepped down, made a successful play for that organization’s CEO position.
Dennis, one of the council’s most strident opponents of the reforms that brought KHA into being as a replacement for the Children’s Commission and the Jacksonville Journey, saw Peppers as unqualified to be CEO and as someone who is parlaying relationships with the board and Curry’s team into a high-paying job.
Dennis said the bill would foster “transparency and fairness.”
Leading pot lawyers expand to Jacksonville
Bold City has a new pot law firm, which will practice out of the Riverside shopping center.
Denver-based Vicente Sederberg LLC, described as “one of the nation’s leading marijuana law firms,” is opening a Jacksonville office — serving the largest city in Florida’s burgeoning medical marijuana markets.
The extension of Vicente Sederberg — which claims to have “guided” one of the state’s five original medical marijuana licensees — is the latest development in the growing legal community for the marijuana industry.
Sally Kent Peebles will head the Jacksonville office, according to a news release.
Several lawsuits are expected after Tallahassee Judge Karen Gievers ruled that Tampa strip club entrepreneur Joe Redner can grow his own pot to treat his lung cancer.
The firm is also sponsoring the “National Cannabis Industry Association’s Quarterly Cannabis Caucus” in Tampa next week, as well as taking part in North East Florida NORML’s 420 on the Beach event in Jacksonville Beach set for (you guessed it) April 20.
T-U praises Ford’s ‘dynamic change’ at JTA
Nat Ford recently celebrated five years as CEO of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
“These have been the most enjoyable five years of my career,” Ford told the Florida Times-Union.
“And they have been five of the best years in JTA’s history, too,” the editorial board praises in a new op-ed. “In short, JTA has become a more modern, more responsive and more relevant transit system.”
Since taking over JTA, Ford:
— Completely overhauled JTA’s antiquated route system, increasing the on-time rate for buses to 80 percent.
— Launched the first two lines of the premium First Coast Flyer traveling into the Northside and Southside with fewer stops; a third Flyer to the Beaches will start later this year.
— “Skillfully united the community’s stakeholders” to support revamping the Skyway, transforming the old automated aerial structure into a roadway with a ramp system that can accommodate driverless vehicles.
— Installed a test track to test driverless vehicles.
— Broke ground on the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center in the LaVilla neighborhood.
— Spearheaded JTA takeover of the St. Johns Ferry, with substantial infrastructure improvements. “The ferry’s ridership numbers are now booming, and it has shed its reputation for being woefully underutilized.”
“We’ve built up a reputation that has transcended Jacksonville,” Ford told the Editorial Board. “At the state and federal level, there is a lot of confidence in our agency.”
Greyhound ready for big move
Jacksonville’s Greyhound Intercity Bus Terminal is ready to make the big move from its longtime home at 10 N. Pearl St. to a new location about seven blocks west near the Prime Osborn Convention Center.
Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s new hub will connect national, regional and city bus service, as well as the Skyway and nearby Interstate 95.
As reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Greyhound terminal at 1111 W. Forsyth St. is the first phase of a $57.3 million JTA Regional Transportation Center project, funded by a combination of federal, state and local money.
To see video of the new facility, click on the image below:
Andy Rodgers, JTA project administrator, told the Business Journal the 9,660-square-foot facility was both on budget and schedule after about a year of construction.
The same food vendors as the current Greyhound station will operate the restaurant area.
JTA owns the building, and Rogers said it will lease it to Greyhound Lines Inc., which will move in April 17. The facility also will handle Megabus and RedCoach bus services.
UNF executes lease in historic downtown Jacksonville building
The University of North Florida is leasing the fourth and fifth floors in the historic Barnett National Bank Building in Downtown Jacksonville
The Coggin College of Business satellite campus will occupy about 16,000 square feet.
According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Barnett Building is under restoration as the first phase of a $100 million “adaptive reuse program” through a partnership of SouthEast Development Group LLC and The Molasky Group of Companies.
Rehabilitation will include a complete historic preservation of the building as well as the Laura Street Trio, a structured parking facility on the adjacent city lot at 28 W. Forsyth St.
Classrooms and faculty support facilities can accommodate as many as 200 students and a new Entrepreneurial Center to develop and support new businesses. UNF interns will earn credits through the center, working with entrepreneurs in a business incubator program.
“Most cities that have thriving entrepreneurship ecosystems usually have a university involved as part of that,” Mark Dawkins, dean of the UNF Coggin College of Business, told the Business Journal.
The UNF Coggin College of Business has four departments offering eight majors: accounting, economics, finance, financial planning, international business, management, marketing, and transportation and logistics.
“UNF wants the center to benefit not only students but the Jacksonville community as a whole,” Dawkins added.