Jacksonville Bold for 8.24.18 — Closing time - Florida Politics

Jacksonville Bold for 8.24.18 — Closing time

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Those of a certain age will recall the Semisonic earworm “Closing Time.”

It is also where we stand in primary season.

We already know what races we are tracking election night. In some, there is enough confidence in the results to have a sense of what the copy will say.

Sure, we’re open to surprises. But with polls and campaign finance reports and connections to most campaigns in the area, there just aren’t many shocks coming.

Another relevant line from the hit: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”

On Aug. 29, the candidates and their operatives on the losing side will face decisions. Some ops will get hired elsewhere. Losing candidates will resolve how best to make their endorsements and figure out their next move, with dreams dashed — potentially forever, in some cases.

“So, gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits.”

Right now, on the campaign trail (outside of a TV studio), this sentiment also applies.

While there will be plenty of time for campaign autopsies, they will be forgotten quickly enough. Unity rallies will attempt to spackle over turf wars. And this November will look (more or less) like they always do in election years that promise turnover in the state Cabinet and — perhaps — a new U.S. Senator.

In the primary wars, it’s definitely closing time.

Lawson leads Brown in CD 5 cash chase

Conditions are looking favorable for U.S. Rep. Al Lawson to win his primary battle over former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

Alvin Brown never seemed to find his groove.

Lawson, ahead by more than 20 points in the only public poll of the race, endorsed by Brown’s local Florida Times-Union and Jacksonville state Rep. Tracie Davis in recent days, is also ahead in cash on hand as of Aug. 8 — the last date for which candidates have filed financial reports.

Lawson, who has raised just over $503,823, had $131,143 on hand. Brown, who has raised $388,649, had $84,361.

Lawson seems confident in his chances, posting to Facebook that “FiveThirtyEight’s ongoing forecast of 2018 House elections currently places me at a 99.9 percent chance of winning back the 5th District seat.”

Indeed.

Brown has touted endorsements from Jacksonville preachers: “more than 30 faith leaders representing a large swath of the local faith community.”

However, three of those preachers have walked back those endorsements, in an abundance of caution over the churches’ 501(C)(3) statuses.

Soderberg, Waltz look like best bets in CD 6

After an interesting summer in both parties’ primaries in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, some clarity in the cash race has emerged as early voting continues.

In the Democratic race, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg has — as of Aug. 8 — amassed what appears to be an insurmountable lead in cash on hand over her Democratic opponents, with $1,096,754 on hand ($1.707,296 raised).

Nancy Soderberg has proved to be a big league fundraiser this cycle.

Stephen Sevigny, a radiologist from Ormond Beach, had $353,534 on hand ($874,212 raised). Farther back still, John Upchurch, an Ormond Beach lawyer, had $131,332 on hand.

Soderberg also is stretching a significant lead in the only public poll of the race. The most recent St. Pete Polls survey released this weekend, shows her as the choice of 50 percent of those surveyed, 31 points up on Sevigny and 38 points over Upchurch.

Similar clarity, though of a somewhat less pronounced degree, can be found on the Republican side of the ledger, with St. Augustine Beach’s Mike Waltz with more cash on hand than his GOP challengers John Ward of Ponte Vedra Beach and former state Rep. Fred Costello of Ormond Beach.

Waltz had as of Aug. 8 $286,706 on hand of his $1,066,996 raised, well ahead of Ward ($76,887 on hand; $1,076,400 raised) and Costello ($7,962 on hand; $254,683 raised).

A survey from a week ago showed Waltz with 40 percent support, with Ward in second place at 21 percent and Costello at 16 percent.

CD 6 is a Republican-leaning seat, though it’s open because U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is poised to become the Republican nominee for Governor.

‘Walk it like I talk it’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, addressing a packed nightclub in Jacksonville Tuesday, may be surging at the right time.

With the latest survey from St. Pete Polls of the Democratic race for Governor indicating that Gillum is within six points of front-runner Gwen Graham (and a private poll showing Gillum at 33 percent, 11 points above the field), a coalition of progressive groups announced Monday that they will commit $3.5 million to help Gillum get over the finish line.

Andrew Gillum has withstood slings and arrows, and is still in the game.

His strategy has been to expand the voter universe; however, as he has noted, resources had previously precluded him from letting his target voters know who he is.

Gillum, when asked about the new polls swinging his way, noted that his campaign didn’t begin its “paid communication until two weeks ago.”

“We knew that because we couldn’t match the financial resources of the other campaigns, that we had to wait until the iron was really hot before we could strike and maximize our message. As voters are learning that we are a real option in this race,” Gillum said, “they’re choosing us.”

“I believe it’s going to be that momentum that will surge us through [to the nomination],” Gillum said.

Regarding the third-party groups backing him, Gillum noted that while he wasn’t deeply “familiar with what the outside groups are doing,” he hopes that “the $3.5 million investment will be directed toward the field.”

“That’s the best bang for the buck at this point, to get to voters and move those voters to the ballot box. If we do that,” Gillum said, “and they do that, we win.”

Curry favors Troutman

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made another late-game endorsement in a statewide race Monday, backing Rep. Baxter Troutman for Agriculture Commissioner.

Baxter Troutman has some strong Jacksonville connections.

This endorsement indicates the value of relationships. Curry’s chief of staff Brian Hughes had been running the Troutman campaign before Hughes took a city job. Now, the operation is run by another Jacksonville op, Carlo Fassi.

The timing of the endorsement’s release seems less than coincidental, counterprogramming Sen. Marco Rubio campaigning Monday in Hialeah for Rep. Matt Caldwell, one of Troutman’s three opponents (whose campaign manager Brian Swensen had the same role in Curry’s 2015 campaign for Jacksonville Mayor).

Curry, per a statement from the Troutman campaign, is “happy to endorse Baxter Troutman … a farmer and rancher, a businessman who has created thousands of jobs, and … a genuine conservative.”

“Of all those seeking this job,” Curry emphasized, “Baxter is clearly the most qualified and ready to help keep Florida growing.”

In accepting the endorsement, Troutman noted Curry’s “proven record of problem-solving.”

“He’s demonstrated that executives can implement conservative policies, stand by their convictions, and get things done despite our current heated political climate,” Troutman remarked.

Campaign manager Fassi asserts that the Troutman campaign is poised to win, leading “outside the margin of error in every statewide poll conducted in this primary to succeed Adam Putnam.”

“Our internals have had Baxter anywhere from 6-10 points ahead of our nearest competitor,” Fassi adds, “while industry polls have shown the race even less competitive.”

Outside help for Wright in HD 14

The Democratic race in House District 14 between incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels and Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright continues to get more interesting as the primary approaches.

Paula Wright is on the base path, but can she score?

Wright, whose campaign account fundraising has been lackluster ($25,085 raised through Aug. 10; just over $12,000 on hand) is enjoying a television ad buy from the New Direction Now political committee.

The spot hits positive, autobiographical themes, including addressing former teacher Wright’s commitment to education.

Through Aug. 10, the committee has been seeded with $27,000. Of that sum, $15,000 comes from the Florida Education Association.

It’s telling that the FEA has funded a positive spot for Wright, as Daniels’ attempts at educational policy improvements in her two years in Tallahassee have been idiosyncratic and seemingly unaligned with the agendas of most public-school advocates.

One Daniels’ bill passed in the 2017 session: House Bill 303, the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” would ban school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, and school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression,” and would require a school district “to adopt limited public forum policy and deliver a disclaimer at school events.”

A 2018 Daniels’ bill, which also passed, likewise blurred the boundaries between the pulpit and pupils, requiring all schools to display the state motto, “In God We Trust,” in a “conspicuous place.”

Daniels, who has benefited from contributions from Gary Chartrand and Charter Schools USA, seems to have an agenda at odds with traditional education interests.

No runaway winner in tax collector tangle

A week out from the primary election in the four-way race for Duval County Tax Collector, campaign finance reports reveal a surprisingly competitive money race.

Jim Overton is in the primary mix, but will he be around afterward?

The three Republicans in the race — Jacksonville City Councilman Doyle Carter, state Rep. Lake Ray, and former property appraiser Jim Overton — all had roughly $60,000 cash on hand as of Aug. 21.

Carter, who raised $2,050 in the week leading up to Aug. 10, has just under $60,000 on hand of the $81,550 he has raised.

Ray, who has been the most aggressive candidate in the race, including attacking Overton for mistakes made as property appraiser, currently has the least money of the three: just over $55,000 on hand of the $155,375 he raised.

Ray raised $1,400 in the week leading up to Aug. 10, including donations from Carter’s City Council colleague Danny Becton. His spending has been eye-popping: almost $100,000 doled out ahead of the Aug. 28 election.

Overton, meanwhile, has just under $60,000 on hand also, after a $1,575 week leading up to Aug. 10.

Three Republicans headed into a blanket primary with Democrat Mia Jones likely only have one ticket to the November general election between them.

Jones lags behind the trio, with roughly $30,000 on hand, but because she’s the only Democrat on the ballot, she stands a strong chance of getting the most votes next week.

Too late to expand early voting?

On Monday, a group of Jacksonville Democrats made their push to expand early voting sites to local colleges and universities.

The goal: to get early voting sites at the University of North Florida and, perhaps, other colleges.

However, logistical roadblocks remain.

Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan told local media that “criteria of selection of an early voting site involves more than just that it is available. Public access, adequate parking for our staff and voters, facility security, ADA compliance, proximity to other early voting sites and of course do we have the money budgeted for an additional location.”

Mike Hogan has not been given the benefit of the doubt on this issue.

Hogan noted that he and University of North Florida have been working to find a way forward on an early voting site, but the logistics mentioned have proved to be prohibitive.

Edward Waters and Jacksonville University are also under consideration, but “time is very limited” given the scope of the election.

“The Russians are in our database,” Hogan added. “All we know is what the Senators have told us and they can’t give us real information.”

The primary election, Hogan added, won’t be over until Sept. 10 or 11, when results are certified. On Oct. 7, the final list of early voting sites has to be submitted to the Secretary of State office.

Personnel note

Sen. Aaron Bean adds Chesten N. Goodman — Goodman will be Bean’s new district legislative assistant, responsible for handling legislative policy matters. Goodman previously worked for Rep. Jay Fant as his legislative assistant after graduating from Florida State University. He is currently completing his final semester of graduate studies at Florida State to get a graduate degree in American Politics and Policy. “Chesten’s prior legislative experience in the Florida House made him the obvious choice for filling the vacancy in our office,” said Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican. He represents Senate District 4, which includes parts of Nassau and Duval counties.

Special election challenge rejected

David Taylor, a former Jacksonville City Council Republican candidate who has not been immune to controversy over the years, saw his lawsuit against the Duval County Supervisor of Elections thrown out Tuesday by Judge Robert M. Foster.

David Taylor likened the decision to “communism” in a statement after Judge Robert Foster’s ruling.

Taylor’s charge: The special election in District 12 was not publicly announced in a publication of record, one that saw the only qualified candidate, Republican Randy White, win without opposition.

Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel framed the decision to throw the case out as a victory for the consolidated government.

“In summary, the plaintiff, David Taylor, sought to invalidate the special election because he claims he was not provided notice of the qualifying period established by the City Council. In misapplying state statute, Mr. Taylor argued that the Supervisor of Elections was required to publish notice of the election in the newspaper because there is a requirement for such notice to occur in special elections called by the Governor and Florida Secretary of State,” Gabriel asserted Tuesday.

“The complete dismissal of Mr. Taylor’s complaint is significant because the Court reviewed the requirements necessary to set a local special election for Council vacancies and acknowledged all of our arguments that it is the City Charter and local Ordinance Code that dictate the requirements of the special local election, and such were followed,” Gabriel added.

In a seven-page decision, the court repeatedly struck down Taylor’s petitions for relief, effectively saying that even if there were a legitimate petition for redress, it couldn’t be provided in a timely way.

JEA wants out of Plant Vogtle

According to WSAV in Savannah, Jacksonville’s municipal-owned utility JEA wants out of the Plant Vogtle deal.

The controversial accord, set a decade ago, obligated JEA to buy electricity from two reactors that were at the beginning of the construction process.

Can JEA dump this deal? Stay tuned.

“Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) says it wants out and is urging MEAG to vote “no” on any continuation of the new reactors. In a letter to MEAG CEO James Fuller, JEA … wrote that ‘a decision to continue (the new reactors) cannot be justified on any rational basis.’”

A clean energy advocate quoted in the Savannah market piece noted that “staying locked on to this sort of sinking ship means you’re going to pull your ratepayers down and so I think JEA is ready to jump ship.”

Getting out of the deal could cost JEA $1.5 billion, but would represent savings of at least $750 million, per the Florida Times-Union.

Fall semester begins at UNF

As the fall semester begins at the University of North Florida, it’s not just a new school year for the incoming freshmen. Monday was the first day for President David Szymanski.

Welcome back!

Szymanski, who previously served as dean of the Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati, is taking the reins from John Delaney, who retired in May.

While Delaney is now in the private sector, he will not be soon forgotten. The student union is named after the former president, among the many changes returning students will notice.

Also new are renovations to Skinner-Jones Hall, with upgraded classrooms and research labs for engineering and computing.

UF Health TraumaOne nationally recognized

University of Florida Health has received national recognition as a level I trauma center by the American College of Surgeons, the health system announced last week.

The Chicago-based association assesses trauma facilities to help hospitals improve care and to provide an objective, external performance review with stringent criteria, reports the Jacksonville Business Journal. The process includes a peer review team spending two days at the facility to evaluate policies, resources, patient care and other performance metrics. The designation is for three years.

UF Health Jacksonville gets national recognition.

In operation since 1983, UF Health TraumaOne, at 655 8th St. W., is one of 10 level 1 trauma centers in Florida — the only one of its type in Northeast Florida, and just one of three trauma centers in Duval County.

Other trauma facilities include Wolfson Children’s Hospital, which specializes in pediatrics, and Memorial Hospital, which also received level II designation in 2018.

Gorillas find new home at Jacksonville Zoo

A family of gorillas moved home this week, part of the Jacksonville Zoo’s new African Forest exhibit, which is set to open Aug. 31.

The gorillas — father, named Lash; mother, named Madini; and baby gorilla, named Patty — were released into the display after a year of renovations, reports News4Jax.

Welcome home! (Image via WJXT News4Jax)

The new African Forest habitat replaces the Great Apes Loop, which has been around for nearly 20 years. Renovations include additional viewing windows, water features for the animals and new homes for bonobos and lemurs.

Jaguars considering trade offer for Fowler

During the long, hot practices of NFL training camps, tempers tend to flare. Fights break out, like they did when Dante Fowler, Jr. tangled with two teammates in separate incidents two weeks ago.

The second one, featuring Fowler and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, led to the former Gator’s suspension. Subsequent events indicate this may be more than just a skirmish that blows over.

Dante Fowler Jr. has had multiple run-ins with the law.

This week, news broke that the Jaguars were contacted by the New York Jets about a possible trade for Fowler. The name offered in return was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who is trying to return to the NFL after a devastating leg injury two years ago.

When he was hurt, Bridgewater was already showing signs of becoming a dynamic NFL quarterback. After his contract expired last year, the Jets signed him.

Fowler also had to overcome a serious injury. After being the third overall pick, he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first day of rookie minicamp.

The Jaguars could be looking for a solid backup for Blake Bortles at quarterback and have someone with NFL experience who could fill in if Bortles is injured. In addition, the team is well-stocked on the defensive side of the ball, making an addition to the offense something worth considering.

If the fight is more than just a training camp skirmish and the Jaguars are looking to promote locker room harmony, Bridgewater would be a good option. He is not known for having a flamboyant personality.

At first glance, such a trade might not appear to provide a fair return for the Jaguars. Bridgewater has yet to prove he is fully recovered.

There are two more preseason games remaining. Jaguars’ fans will have to wait and see how it all plays out.

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