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Jacksonville Bold for 11.9.18 — Game change

Electing Ron DeSantis to the top office in the state (pending recount, that is) is a capital-g “Game Change” moment for Duval.

DeSantis’ base is Jacksonville though he lives in Ponte Vedra.

Everyone reading this knows that despite a county line, the money easily flows over borders.

Don’t kid yourselves, Gov. Ron DeSantis is a game changer for Jacksonville.

Pols from both Duval and Clay validated him, in case Adam Putnam pressure made Trumpista voters a bit wobbly. And DeSantis’ general election campaign savior, Susie Wiles, hails from the same region.

As you read on, Wiles is not done yet.

Northeast Florida has a lot of needs. It’s hard to imagine member projects getting vetoed, especially in favor of projects benefiting Democratic Mayors who heaped opprobrium on DeSantis before Election Day.

Jacksonville won. Northeast Florida won.

To quote a familiar presence: “Are you tired of winning yet?”

We run things

Few will disagree that the support of President Donald Trump carried DeSantis to what looks like a victory in the Governor’s race.

But no less important: support from Northeast Florida.

Susie Wiles (for good or ill) pulled it together for Ron DeSantis.

For two terms in Congress, DeSantis represented Ponte Vedra, the suburbs south of Jacksonville (a third term saw his district moved farther south). It was clear during most of his tenure that Congress wasn’t his final destination; a perception reinforced when he (briefly) ran for the party’s Senate nomination until incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election.

Though a recount is now assured in the Governor’s race, the DeSantis team is already moving into transition mode. And atop that transition is a big Northeast Florida bow.

Campaign manager Wiles, who took a campaign that looked unmoored and undisciplined and stabilized the operation before finding a way to erase Andrew Gillum‘s polling edge with independent voters, is running the transition.

But wait, there’s more.

Trump’s man bests Clinton alum

So much for the polls. And outside money.

The high-profile race to replace DeSantis in Congress involved two nationally known candidates and went down to the wire.

Mike Waltz served our country. Now he’s serving in our Congress.

Ultimately, the President picked the winner. And that winner won by double-digits.

Republican Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret and counterterrorism adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defeated Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations.

The race saw more than $5 million of direct spending from the candidates; $3 million of that was from Soderberg, who ran as a moderate Democrat in a district that the previous Democratic candidate and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton each lost by 15+ points in 2016.

The money was necessary on both sides as the air war went nuclear.

Per CNN, “the vast majority of the roughly $3.7 million spent on TV in this district in the final week [was] coming from Soderberg and her allies — including $2.4 million from Michael Bloomberg‘s Independence USA PAC.”

Soderberg messaged as a moderate Democrat. But it wasn’t enough.

Radical change coming

The two Congressmen representing Jacksonville, Democrat Al Lawson and Republican John Rutherford, have become friends in the last two years.

John Rutherford and Al Lawson with Rep. Val Demings. (Image via David Cawton/Jax Daily Record)

Lawson, representing Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which sprawls from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, emphasizes working across the aisle, and in a Republican-held House that has been a useful strategy, especially for the Republican power structure that controls Jacksonville at every level.

Rutherford, whose CD 4 includes Jacksonville and many of its suburbs, has been an enthusiastic Trump booster.

Both men won handily Tuesday. Rutherford beat Democrat Ges Selmont; Lawson defeated Democrat Virginia Fuller.

However, before the election, both men told Florida Politics what a flip may portend.

“One thing I’ve learned after almost two years in Washington, D.C., in the House of Representatives: You never want to be in the minority party,” Rutherford noted. “It makes it very difficult to get your agenda accomplished.

Read more here.

Wyman triumphs

The million-dollar-plus race to replace Jay Fant in House District 15 has concluded.

And the Democrats — despite a herculean effort — could not flip it.

On Tuesday, Republican Wyman Duggan defeated Democrat Tracye Polson by 51 percent to 49 percent.

Wyman Duggan wins: Try as they might, Democrats couldn’t flip HD 15.

Democrats had not previously fielded a candidate for this seat for nearly a decade. However, this cycle saw not simply a campaign, but one that had the resources to compete with Republican political machines both in downtown Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

And that GOP machine was out in force, with legislators from across the state coming into Jacksonville’s Westside to knock on doors for Duggan, a lobbyist by trade who was backed by the local political establishment.

The special interests attacked, and they got through to voters outside of Riverside and Avondale, sinecures where a Polson sign was on every block.

Duggan will be a reliable voice for interests of City Hall, offering Mayor Lenny Curry another person in the delegation with whom communication flows well.

Republicans hold serve

Despite active campaigns in other Republican-held districts, Democrats couldn’t overcome party registration and capital advantages, WJXT reported.

“In House District 11, which includes Nassau County and part of Duval County, Republican incumbent Cord Byrd was re-elected to his second two-year term with 69 percent of the vote. He faced a challenge from Democrat Nathcelly Leroy Rohrbaugh, a homemaker and first-time candidate.”

Cord Byrd rebuffed primary and general election challenges.

Byrd credited “grassroots.” Other candidates had similar margins.

District 12’s Clay Yarborough garnered 59 percent of the vote, HD 16’s Jason Fischer 58 percent.

In House District 17, incumbent Republican Cyndi Stevenson cleared 70 percent, as did HD 19’s Bobby Payne.

House District 24 Republican Paul Renner also breezed to victory. Meanwhile, Reps. Tracie Davis, Kim Daniels, and Travis Cummings had no opposition.

‘Losing sucks’

Tuesday night, Jacksonville Mayor Curry was not graceful in victory.

In victory, there was little grace.

Curry spiked the ball on local exponents of the “Blue Wave” theory, reminding locals of his pre-primary endorsement of Ron DeSantis for Governor and his support of U.S. Senator-elect Rick Scott.

“From my years in Sports, coaching, business, parenting, life & government, I’ve never understood those that lose the battle then find something to celebrate. Odd and a recipe for serial losing. Losing sucks. I’m glad my opponents haven’t figured that out,” Curry tweeted.

Curry was in position to spike the ball. In addition to DeSantis and Scott winning (also pending a recount), other endorsed candidates, like Mike Waltz in CD 6 and Duggan in House District 15, got over the finish line despite well-funded and energetic Democratic challengers with outside help.

His message: Curry’s ready for 2019.


The always perceptive Andrew Pantazi noted Duval going Democratic Tuesday, then noted that it didn’t matter much in the end for statewide tallies.

Duval got on the bus. But the exurbs went the other way.

“DeSantis didn’t need to worry about the large urban counties. While Duval’s margin shifted by a whopping 50,855 votes, that wasn’t enough to handle the Republican growth in the state’s suburban and exurban counties,” Pantazi notes, before adding that Dems have work ahead.

“And even though Duval was one of the few counties to shift hard toward Democrats, the county is still run almost entirely by Republicans. It has a Republican mayor in the city that gives the most power to a mayor of any municipality in the state. It has a Republican sheriff in a consolidated government that gives him more power than almost any other sheriff. It has Republicans running each of the constitutional offices — tax collector, property appraiser, clerk of courts, supervisor of elections. And the City Council is still overwhelmingly Republican: 13 out of the 19 city council members are Republicans, a supermajority.”

GOP holds Duval tax collector spot

Though a 2019 election looms, Republican Jim Overton won Tuesday’s special election for Duval County Tax Collector.

The tax man cometh.

But it was close.

Overton won with 51 percent of the vote. He defeated Democrat Mia Jones, most recently a member of the Florida House, rising to Democratic Leader pro tempore in 2014-16.

The low-wattage race pitted two political veterans against each other in the runoff, after both emerged from an August blanket primary.

Worth watching now that the special election is over: Whether anyone will file to oppose the winner on the 2019 ballot. Qualifying is in early January.

Ask Council first, OK?

Duval County voters Tuesday approved a nonbinding referendum suggesting that the Jacksonville City Council must first approve a sale of 10 percent or more of the municipal utility (JEA).

Before a JEA sale, Council members must have a say.

While JEA has an independent board, the push to privatize the utility that started a year ago led Council members to want increased checks and balance.

Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni, who sponsored the legislation that put the measure on the ballot, said the nonbinding poll allowed voters to “weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

The legislation to put the matter on the ballot came after some of the best-connected lobbyists in the area started working this spring for companies that may want to buy JEA.

Speculation has swirled that even though the issue has been tabled in recent months, it could return with a new intensity after city elections in spring 2019.

T-shirt theater

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a Democrat, wore a Gillum for Governor T-shirt to a Council committee meeting Tuesday.

A blazer covered the jacket. Nonetheless, he was told that would draw an ethics complaint, he said.

Garrett Dennis probably won’t wear his Andrew Gillum shirt again.

“My jacket was on all day,” Dennis said.

Dennis said earlier in the day he had run into Jacksonville’s two most powerful staffers: Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and Chief of Staff Brian Hughes.

According to Dennis, they told him to “take off your jacket … we want to see what’s under your jacket.”

A copy of the complaint is not yet in hand. And we’ve been frustrated in getting any confirmation such a complaint exists.

“Complaints made to the Ethics Commission are confidential, per Florida law,” said Carla Miller, the City of Jacksonville’s Director of Ethics Compliance and Oversight.

Hughes, meantime, says this is another “false claim” from Dennis.

This latest episode continues an ongoing tango of claims and counterclaims. Dennis has maintained that Lenny Curry’s administration has bullied and intimidated him for over a year.

At the same time, one former Curry staffer has claimed that Dennis intimidated her during a closed meeting.

Salute to disabled vets

Jacksonville-based law firm Farah & Farah is teaming up with Five Star Veterans Center for a donation drive, and the firm will match donations up to $79,000 through Nov. 18. All donations go to the center.

You can make donations in any amount at

Please consider a donation to the Five Star Veterans Center.

Founded in March 2012, Five Star Veterans Center is a nonprofit to assist veterans aged 22 to 55 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, depression, anxiety and other related mental health issues.

The goal of the organization is for each veteran to be reintegrated into society, and to help displaced military veterans find safe housing and supportive services.

To view a video about the promotion and Five Star Veterans Center, click on the image below:

JAA committee recommends CEO

A four-member CEO selection committee of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is recommending Mark VanLoh as the organization’s next leader, replacing Steve Grossman who retired earlier this year.

Congratulations to Mark VanLohm, the leading candidate for JAA CEO.

As first reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the full board will vote on VanLoh during its next meeting Nov. 26. VanLoh comes to the JAA after stints as director of aviation for Kansas City, Missouri and president of Chattanooga Airport Authority.

“The selection committee is ecstatic to nominate Mark VanLoh to succeed Steve Grossman,” committee chair Patrick Kilbane said in a statement. “Mark will bring extensive experience, proven results and passion to the aviation authority. We look forward to working with him.”

VanLoh came out on top in a field of 73 applicants, which was then narrowed to four by the consulting firm ADK Consulting & Executive Search. Of that final list, VanLoh was considered the “clear winner.”

UF Health gets top grades in 2019

A new report by national health organization analysts at Healthgrades are recognizing UF Health Jacksonville with two prestigious clinical awards, ranking it as one of the top hospitals in the country for multiple areas of care.

According to a statement from UF Health Jacksonville, the achievements our in cranial neurosurgery and critical care. UF Health Jacksonville is the only hospital in Northeast Florida to receive those distinctions.

UF Health gets accolades as a top hospital for 2019.

“This is an amazing achievement, and I could not be prouder of the people here who have worked so hard to improve our quality,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine — Jacksonville.

Evaluation and the Healthgrades 2019 report highlights the importance of consumer access to high-quality care, using data from 4,500 hospitals nationwide — including risk-adjusted mortality and complication rates — to determine the top performing hospitals nationwide.

Glimpse of the past

Per After spending nearly 60 years behind a cornerstone in the old Bay Street City Hall building, the contents of a time capsule buried in 1960 were opened by Mayor Curry and City Council President Aaron Bowman Oct. 3.

The contents have been digitized and stored in the Special Collections Department at the Main Library, which can also be viewed on the Jacksonville Public Library website.

The public gets a glimpse into the past as Jacksonville opens a 1960 time capsule.

There is also a way to look at the artifacts in person, by calling call (904) 630-2409 to schedule an appointment with a librarian. Library officials are working to create a name index, making it easier to find specific people mentioned within the artifacts.


Moving about 2.8 million metric tons from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 — the 2018 fiscal year — JAXPORT is one of the key hubs for transporting raw materials.

JAXPORT releases its Top Ten cargo items in FY 2018.

The Jacksonville Business Journal reports on the top 10 imports coming through JAXPORT (listed here from smallest to largest):

— Stones and pebbles: accounting for 89,500 metric tons.

— Coal: Last year’s front-runner dropped to 90,000 metric tons, from 1.9 million metric tons in FY 2017.

— Coffee: More than 94,000 metric tons moved through JAXPORT this year.

— Tires, tubes: The Port of Jacksonville imported nearly 100,000 metric tons of tires and tubes.

— Furniture: More than 182,000 metric tons of furniture move through the Port of Jacksonville.

— Petroleum products: about 183,000 metric tons of petroleum products were imported through the port last year.

— Other: Since much of JAXPORT is “tenant-operated,” a significant number of items in containers are not listed. That category accounts for 368,000 metric tons.

— Paper products: JAXPORT moved nearly 369,000 metric tons of paper and paper products.

— Limestone: More than a half-million tons of limestone were imported through the port in 2018.

And the No. 1 most imported item through JAXPORT:

— Automobiles: Nearly 750,000 metric tons of motor vehicles came through the Port of Jacksonville, by way of Southeast Toyota Distributors, Amports and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.

Jaguars desperate for a win

Fans and analysts are calling Sunday’s game in Indianapolis against the Colts a “must win.” Players and coaches do not often say such things publicly, but these are not ordinary times.

“This is a thousand percent must-win,” said linebacker Myles Jack. “No. 1, it’s a conference game that we’ve got to win. And then we’re on a four-game losing streak, so we can’t lose another game.”

Myles Jack calls this Sunday a “thousand percent must-win.”

It is also an AFC South Division game, one of two against the Colts. Both teams come into the game with 3-5 records, both trailing the 6-3 Houston Texans.

The Jaguars are coming off their bye week. By going winless in October, they last walked off the field after a victory Sept. 30, when they beat the New York Jets 31-12 at TIAA Bank Field.

While the game is on the road, there are some positives to look at for Jacksonville. Top among those is the return of running back Leonard Fournette from injury.

But unless someone is a super-back, they can often be only as good as their offensive line, which has been a problem lately. Coach Doug Marrone said he lost faith in the line during their game in London against the Philadelphia Eagles, especially in short yardage situations.

Quarterback Blake Bortles is thrilled to have Fournette return and believes, as does the entire team, that the team’s fortunes are about to improve dramatically.

“I know everybody’s fired up to have him back in the lineup,” Bortles said. “I know I’m excited to watch him run. I know guys are excited to block for him and kind of see him go.”

The game will mark the first without defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams soon after returning from London.

The defense needs to get better quickly as well since they face on of the NFL’s top quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, a dynamic receiver in T.Y. Hilton and emerging running back Marlon Mack out of the University of South Florida.

On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars recorded 10 sacks the last time these teams met more than a year ago. The Colts are counting on their improved offensive line to prevent a repeat.

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