A.G. Gancarski – Page 3 – Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

Will real competition emerge to stop Lenny Curry’s re-election?

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been in re-election mode for a few months, and after a year of political turbulence in City Hall, a smoother flight looks likely for the first-term Republican incumbent’s fourth year in office.

For one thing, ally Aaron Bowman, who shares Curry’s aggressive vision for downtown development, will be Council President.

Bowman took a leadership role on Council from the time he was elected, and seems intent to act as a partner with Curry, not as a constant check and balance.

For City Hall watchers, that will be a marked change from the last year, when Council President Anna Brosche (a Republican) and Finance Chair Garrett Dennis (a Democrat) questioned Curry’s approach on everything from the children’s program revamp of the “Kids Hope Alliance” to the recent push to commit $82 million in city incentives ($56 million in millage abatement and another $26 million in public infrastructure) to the District development.

Curry entered June having raised $2 million between his campaign account and that of his political committee, Jacksonville on the Rise. The town’s biggest movers and shakers, ranging from Peter Rummell to Tom Petway to Shad Khan, are behind him. As is the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce.

Despite all this establishment energy behind Curry, not everyone is sold that he’s going to win.

A smattering of underfunded hopefuls are currently on the ballot. But the greatest hopes for the anti-Curry set rest, ultimately, with Dennis or Brosche taking the plunge.

Of the two, Dennis sounds most like a candidate.

“Under Lenny, crime in the city is at an all time high, he botched the sale of JEA, he’s picking fights and bullying everyone in town, and he is at the center of cronyism benefitting a chosen few. It’s no wonder his poll numbers are falling fast. I’m predicting that he will be a one-term Mayor: One City. One Jacksonville. One Term,” Dennis said in response to the Chamber endorsement.

Dennis, endorsed by the Chamber in his 2015 Council race, likely won’t get their nod again for any office.

But he’s undaunted.

Friday, he reiterated his claim Curry will be a one-term mayor. Dennis believes that there is an “anti-Curry machine” that won’t be placated, likening the momentum to that which made Tommy Hazouri a one-term mayor.

While Dennis sounds like a candidate, conversely, Anna Brosche does not, saying that she has yet to make a decision either way.

What is certain: These two won’t run against each other.

Neither Dennis nor Brosche have filed for re-election. Brosche recently closed her political committee, called “Prosperity for All.” Of the $1,520 it raised since 2015, $1,000 of that came from Curry’s committee.

Dennis, meanwhile, just opened a committee. “Together We Stand” has yet to raise money.

Advocates for Curry’s re-election point out reasons why Dennis and Brosche are not viable. Included: a lack of name identification, a lack of a financial base, and a lack of a political operation.

They point out that both councilors had easy paths in 2015, and have not been tested by a serious opponent.

There’s no rush, necessarily, for a credible opponent to emerge. However, the Curry machine is in overdrive, and all expectations are that the 2018-19 budget will be generous in terms of capital improvements.

An election year budget, for an election year.

Father’s Day message: Florida Republicans defend family separations at Mexican border

Here in Florida, our politicians message around Father’s Day with tweets and Facebook messages of pure, uncut sentimentality.

Yet, at various outposts near the U.S./Mexican border, a different narrative unfolds between parents and children.

President Donald Trump’s administration is under scrutiny for its decision to warehouse immigrant children in former Walmarts and other holding areas. With space at a premium, he mulls building Joe Arpaio-style tent cities for overflow.

In the last six weeks, 2,000 children — at least — have been separated from their families. And it is hard to find a Republican who will directly say the policy is wrong.

This outlet has asked Florida politicians for their takes. Both Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam have fallen far short of expressly condemning the practice, saying that warehousing migrant minors wouldn’t be necessary if the immigration system weren’t “messed up,” with “secure borders” being the only possible fix.

On Saturday, at a gubernatorial campaign event for Commissioner Putnam, Jacksonville’s Rep. John Rutherford — a former Jacksonville Sheriff — defended the practice regarding illegal border crossers.

However, he noted that a piece of immigration legislation that he supports in the House, championed by Speaker Paul Ryan, would end the practice in exchange for border security measures prioritized by the President.

“If these children come with parents and they’re seeking asylum, then they’ve come here in a legal way, and they should be housed together because no law has been broken,” Rutherford began.

“However, if they come across the border illegally, the parents have broken the law. Just like an individual here in Jacksonville when I was sheriff, if he broke the law, I put him in jail. That separated him from his children,” Rutherford added.

“I believe that criminals go to jail,” Rutherford added. “Not children, but criminals.”

Rutherford, contra the critics, does not see the internment camps the federal government has built for children as prisons.

“If you look at the way they’re being housed, they’re being fed, they’re being taken care of. They have playrooms, I understand. All of that — they’re not in prison,” Rutherford said, adding that they “shouldn’t be put into prison with their parents.”

“You certainly don’t want them housed with pedophiles and others who might be in that situation,” Rutherford noted.

Rutherford told us that he does support the so-called “compromise bill currently in the House, a piece of immigration legislation that actually would end the border separations of parents and children.

“I think there’s some real possibility there that we may be able to get to 218,” Rutherford said.

“If you’re really concerned about border security, it’s in that bill. We’re going to commit $25 million to build that wall where the wall is necessary. Other areas it will be an electronic surveillance type situation. We’ll hire boots on the ground, to capture those who may be coming across,” Rutherford said.

Access roads and other necessities “to secure the southern border are in this bill,” Rutherford noted.

“And there are triggers,” Rutherford added. “If a future Congress does not follow through with that funding, the visas for the DACA are not released.”

“Assuming the border is taken care of, and the DACA recipients get a five-year legal status, not a Green Card, they get legal status, are able to stay in this country and work … folks who are here getting educated, getting their doctoral degree and Master’s and all of that, we won’t have to send them back,” Rutherford noted.

“Those who are concerned about the migrant population, the immigrant population, it’s in this bill also. The plan is to address the immigrant worker issue,” Rutherford said, and E-Verify.

Adam Putnam opens Jacksonville HQ with big-time local support

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continued his Northeast Florida swing this weekend, opening a Jacksonville campaign headquarters Saturday with loads of prominent Republicans in attendance.

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford and state Sen. Aaron Bean, two of the most prominent Republican elected officials in Northeast Florida, were there in support.

Likewise in the house: Jacksonville City Council President-designate Aaron Bowman, Council colleague Doyle Carter, and a host of other candidates and local officials.

Putnam, who held a BBQ in St. Augustine Thursday that drew hundreds, made a Jacksonville stop before heading to Clay County for a Flag Day dinner.

Introducing Putnam, Rutherford (a former Jacksonville sheriff who stressed to reporters that he was on hand to “support his good friend,” not to endorse Putnam over House colleague Rep. Ron DeSantis), extolled the commissioner for having the kind of knowledge and experience that only an executive position gives.

“The guy knows how to run stuff,” Rutherford said, “not just talk about running stuff.”

And though critics are panning Putnam for missteps in his department ranging from incomplete concealed weapons permit background checks to a botched roller coaster inspection that left nine injured in Daytona just this week, the “experience matters” trope was central to Rutherford’s remarks.

In a speech that ran close to 20 minutes, Putnam was ebullient, noting “we ran the table” with endorsements from groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police in Orlando earlier Saturday.

“They’ve seen my work the last eight years,” Putnam said, before drawing contrasts between him and DeSantis.

In spotlighting 3.8 percent unemployment, Putnam said that even though he’s “just a Gator, not an Ivy Leaguer,” those numbers translate to “full employment.”

(Labor force participation rates, somewhat lagging below that metric, went unmentioned.)

“If you want to lead our state, be in our state,” Putnam asserted. “You have to be present to be a strong servant leader.”

In what could appear as a slam on the nationwide network of financiers for DeSantis, Putnam threw out a zinger: “Don’t let billionaires from out of state influence this election.”

Perhaps to sidestep going too inside-baseball, Putnam qualified his remark with the names of familiar liberal villains Tom Steyer and George Soros.

Qualifiers notwithstanding, the message was clear: There was a difference between Florida-grown Adam Putnam and DeSantis, someone much more likely found with Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham than on the campaign trail.

Putnam expanded his point.

“What I know is I’m in every corner of the state. I know Florida best,” he said. “I’ve put in my time. I’ve listened to Floridians and their issues and their challenges, and we have put out specific plans on how to put Florida first and build on the success of Gov. [Rick] Scott.,”

Putnam contrasted his path to that of DeSantis, who pursued “three different offices in three years, that’s a lot.”

He also cited momentum and grassroots volunteers throughout the state.

“The fact that Northeast Florida is turning out for me is a really good sign, given my position on the I-4 Corridor,” Putnam asserted.

“The grassroots momentum is rallying behind a Florida first message that is going to prevail,” he added.

The friendliest poll of late (via the Florida Chamber), shows Putnam up 32 to 15.

When asked if his internal polling jibed with those numbers: “I’m very pleased with how the campaign is going.”

Adam Putnam blames Dems for politicizing Daytona roller coaster tragedy

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has endured a couple of bad news cycles as he vies for the Republican nomination for Governor.

First, there was the issue with concealed weapons permits. Putnam’s office didn’t complete checks on 365 permits between Feb. 2016 and Mar. 2017.

Then, just as that item faded from the public consciousness, another issue: a roller coaster in Daytona Beach that derailed Thursday, injuring nine people just hours after getting the green light from Putnam’s office.

Now, the criticism is pouring in.

Putnam’s primary opponent, Rep. Ron DeSantis, told WJXT of the permit botch: “The Ag Department doesn’t do very much — concealed weapons permits, supposed to look out of for the citrus industry. It seems he’s had problems with both of those regards.”

Also piling on were Florida Democrats, adding the roller coaster issue to their critique.

“Every week, there’s a new report about Adam Putnam’s department failing to do its job. Putnam has created a culture of mismanagement, lack of accountability and incompetence at the Department of Agriculture. Putnam has spent almost a year running for governor instead of doing his job — and Floridians are paying the price,” said Florida Democratic Party spokesperson Kevin Donohoe.

In Jacksonville Saturday to open his campaign headquarters, Putnam addressed both these issues and the critics.

“It’s no surprise that people would try to politicize the tragedy,” Putnam said. “It’s unfortunate, but in this environment, it doesn’t surprise me.”

“We are actively investigating the tragic incident in Daytona. Our hearts and prayers go out to the injured. And we will hold anyone accountable who needs to be held accountable at the conclusion of the investigation,” Putnam added.

Given that the ride was inspected and approved hours before the derailment, some have questions as to the inspection process itself.

Those questions, in theory, will be resolved by the investigation to which Putnam refers.

And some will see parallels between the detachment of the commissioner from the inspection process to him being unaware of (and not disclosing) gaps in the concealed weapons permit process.

Adam Putnam thinks ‘secure borders’ would stop federal internment of migrant kids

In Jacksonville Saturday, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam took a question from this outlet similar to one Gov. Rick Scott answered a day earlier.

Namely, the Republican gubernatorial candidate was asked if he stood behind the Donald Trump administration policy of separating migrant children from their parents, placing those children in holding facilities and possibly (if plans come to fruition) tent cities.

Widely reported this week: The president decided to warehouse immigrant children in a Walmart, even as he mulls building a Joe Arpaio-style tent city for overflow, just in time for the heart of Texas summer.

Scott called the practice “disturbing” and symptomatic of the failures of the immigration system.

When asked, Putnam took a similar position: “It’s important that we enforce our laws. It’s important that we enforce our laws in a humane way. But we need to have secure borders. With secure borders, you would have less of this issue.”

Putnam added that his Secure Florida First plan would “help to make sure Floridians are not picking up an undue portion of the bill for these types of criminal illegal alien activities.”

Trump’s immigration and border security plans, per Putnam, “need to be moved by Washington.”

Putnam’s stump speech in Jacksonville — delivered on the day he was endorsed by the state Fraternal Order of Police in Orlando — was heavy on law and order themes, which at least occasionally intersected with the United States’ relationship with Latin America.

He lauded the president for “enforcing the trade laws instead of worrying about the hand-wringing of the Mexican diplomats, the Costa Rican diplomats, the Brazilian diplomats, and [caring] more about their feelings than American jobs.”

“That’s not what’s going on with President Trump,” Putnam said, “and he’s right to continue that fight.”

Firefighters endorse Adam Putnam, Sean Shaw, Denise Grimsley

Florida Professional Firefighters, which represents over 25,000 firefighters and EMS personnel across Florida, did not respect party lines in its wave of state endorsements rolled out Friday.

Republicans Adam Putnam and Denise Grimsley got the group’s backing for Governor and Agriculture Commissioner; Democrat Sean Shaw got the imprimatur for Attorney General.

“As our Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam has worked with our firefighters and paramedics to ensure the safety of the citizens and all first responders,” said FPH head Jim Tolley.

“We know he understands our issues first hand. That experience, coupled with his track record of obtaining adequate resources for the Florida Forest Service to advocating for firefighters’ cancer coverage and post-traumatic stress disorder legislation, gives us comfort. We stand with Adam Putnam for Governor,” Tolley added.

In endorsing Grimsley, Tolley lauded her experience working with firefighters as an ER trauma nurse.

“We know she uniquely understands our mission because she has been there with us,” said Tolley. “That experience, paired with her legislative track record — from working to secure $7.1 million in funding for new fire station construction and $2.6 million in funding for the Fire Sciences Program at South Florida State College, to advocating for the firefighters’ cancer coverage and post-traumatic stress disorder legislation — makes us confident we have an ally in Denise Grimsley.”

“Firefighters and emergency personnel are on the front lines of protecting Florida’s families every day, and I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Florida Professional Firefighters,” Grimsley said. “As Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture, I vow to ensure that all of our state’s brave women and men, those who often risk their lives and are the first to respond to the scene of an emergency, an accident or a disaster, will always have the resources they need to serve and protect Florida families and communities. We owe them so much for what they bravely give to us.”

Shaw, meanwhile, was deemed “a steadfast supporter of firefighters, paramedics, other first responders & the entire labor community.”

“The women & men who serve our communities as firefighters are the definition of public servants,” Shaw said. “Their willingness to put their lives on the line for their fellow Floridians is incredibly admirable. I am honored to have their endorsement & as Attorney General, I will always fight for our brave first responders.”

Jacksonville Landing park: The first big idea of Lenny Curry’s second term?

On Thursday, the Jacksonville Daily Record broke news about a City Hall conceptual drawing of the space where the Jacksonville Landing is now.

Gone: the 30-year-old riverfront mall, which has been a source of civic contention for well over a decade.

In its stead: a riverfront park.

Legal action continues between the city and Jacksonville Landing Investments, with the city wanting to take control of the land.

And Friday, at a campaign event in Jacksonville for Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate campaign, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry described the drawing as an “aspirational concept … an idea of what our front door, the front door to the centrality of our downtown could look like and could be.”

What was clear in the discussion: Curry sees this concept as a big deal.

We noted that one issue in current Jacksonville passive parks: congregations of the homeless and the dispossessed, and wondered if such could be the case at the Landing park.

“(T)here’s always going to be critics that are going to find reasons not to do something and make progress and move forward,” Curry said.

“In fact,” Curry added, “every big challenge that I’ve taken on since I’ve been in office for almost three years, there’s been chirping and criticism, but that’s not a reason not to try to make things happen.”

“There’s no question that the Landing is shameful, the condition that it’s in. It’s not a good use of taxpayers’ money; that’s their land. So this is the beginning of a conversation,” Curry said, about what is — for now — “only a concept.”

We asked also about how a Landing Ppark, however conceptual it is, would be run.

In Hemming Park, the city works with an extragovernmental group, which runs the park, enlists private security, and sets rules of conduct in a way that can’t be done in most city-owned parks.

The Friends of Hemming Park has run the park as a nonprofit; we wondered if something similar would be done for this park, should it come to pass.

Curry dodged that question, reminding this reporter that this idea is still “conceptual,” a way to use a “gem of green space.”

As well, there are economic development opportunities in the concept, Curry said, with “two symmetrical buildings to the north, near the streets, that have opportunities for economic development.”

“Whatever the market drives there,” Curry said, “residential, retail, or commercial, that would remain to be seen.”

Jacksonville City Councilman Jim Love, likewise on hand for the Scott event, noted that the Landing is “getting to be an eyesore,” and extolled the potential advantages of redevelopment as “getting more people downtown.”

Some will frame this debate as an ongoing beef between Curry and Landing developer Toney Sleiman. However, those with long historical memories note that the same contretemps occurred two mayors ago, between Sleiman and John Peyton.

Those who have wondered what Curry’s second term vision looks like may have found it, in a sketch of green space, conceptually reclaimed from a Reagan-era shopping mall slow-walking toward blight.

Rick Scott not ready to commit to Jacksonville City Council picks

Suspended Jacksonville City Councilors Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown are going to have their legal fates decided this summer in a federal court relative to an alleged scheme to defraud.

Meanwhile, the fate of their Council seats will be determined by Gov. Rick Scott.

Since the two are not resigning, both Democrats are leaving it to a Republican to pick their (at least temporary) replacements.

Scott, in Jacksonville to highlight endorsements from sheriffs from Northeast Florida, addressed the issue with local press Friday.

“We started the process. Our expectation is that everybody who’s elected or appointed does their job. We shouldn’t have issues like this, but we do,” Scott said, in response to a question from First Coast News reporter Janny Rodriguez.

“If anybody is interested, they should call my office. We’re going to try to get the appointment done as quickly as we can.”

Worth noting: Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman wants the pick made by the end of the month so appointees can get acclimated.

When asked by this reporter if he wanted Democrats or Republicans in the spots, Scott said he wanted “the best person.”

“We’ve got to get people who represent those communities. That’s the most important thing to me,” Scott said.

On June 1, Scott suspended the two and is now mulling a long list of potential temporary replacements for the duo.

The list (as it stands) includes: Joseph WillisDarrin WilliamsDwight BrisbaneTerrance BrisbaneBrenda Priestly JacksonJu’coby PittmanTameka HollyCelestine Mills, Terry Fields, Angela NixonChristopher PendletonJean TranquilleRandolph HallCharles Barr, James GreinerKeshan Chambliss, Rahman JohnsonClarence JamesDwight BrisbaneNiki BrunsonRalph ChaversCornelius CoxTheresa GrahamKing HolzendorfKevin Monroe, Latangie WilliamsChandra Griffin, Charles Barr, Ralph Chavers, Pat Lockett-FelderJames BreakerMincy PollockLeslie HarrisJames GreinerBarney Spann, and Nancy Walker.

Both suspended Browns maintain their innocence.

Jacksonville’s city elections are in 2019, with a “first election” in March and a general election in May.

Reggie Brown, a Florida Senate candidate, is slated to be termed-out next year. Katrina Brown, a first-termer, is an active candidate for Jacksonville City Council at this writing.

Rick Scott says tent cities housing immigrant children are a ‘disturbing’ byproduct of ‘messed-up immigration system’

In Jacksonville Friday to locally promote his endorsements from 55 Florida Sheriffs, rolled out days before in media release form, U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott was compelled to address other issues as well related to the ongoing quest by his “partner in the White House,” Donald J. Trump, to “Make America Great Again.”

Among this week’s news items: the President’s decision to warehouse immigrant children in a Walmart, even as he mulls building a Joe Arpaio-style tent city for overflow, just in time for the heart of Texas summer; and the President’s decision to salute a North Korean soldier, a move made all the more ironic by his deeming the American free press “Our Country’s biggest enemy.”

Since Trump’s ascension, Scott (whose New Republican Super PAC was originally set up to support Trump before being repurposed to support the Governor’s Senate run) has been peppered (often by this reporter) with questions about the President’s latest moves.

Friday was no different.

When asked about migrant kids behind housed in tent cities, and whether he supported the policy, Scott noted the practice was “disturbing,” but emblematic of larger issues.

“I want to make sure everybody who comes to this country is treated with respect, and treated well,” Scott said.

“Your heart goes out to these families that are struggling with these issues. It shows you how messed up our immigration policy is, that these things are happening,” Scott added.

“Congress has got to do their job. Got to come up with an immigration policy that works. We have to secure our borders. We have to [create] a visa program that works, we have to take care of the DACA kids. We have to come up with something that actually works,” Scott said.

Critics of the warehousing of migrant children say the policy is alien to Democratic traditions. In that context, and in light of the Pyongyang pivot from the White House, we asked Scott if America was moving away from its traditional role.

“I clearly believe in democracy. I fought, as Governor, against what the Castro brothers have done. The problems they’re creating in Nicaragua and Venezuela. We’ve got to fight for democracy all around the world … for human rights all around the world. So I’m going to continue to fight for democracy, for liberty, for peace, human rights worldwide,” Scott said.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Nate Evans, predictably, was not sold: “Scott’s comments today further highlight his and his close ally Donald Trump’s horrible and inhumane records on immigration. From calling DACA illegal, to advocating for mass deportations, Scott has built his political career advocating for extreme immigration policies. No matter what he says, Scott’s actions speak for themselves.”

Ron DeSantis, Adam Putnam campaigning in Northeast Florida this weekend

For undecided Republican voters in Northeast Florida, this weekend will be a good time to get some grip and grin time with some of the gubernatorial candidates.

Friday evening sees Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam with dueling events.

DeSantis will do a “Grand Ole Flag Day Meet and Greet” at 5:30 p.m., at Orange Park’s Club Continental.

Putnam will host a “Grassroots BBQ” at St. Augustine’s “Rod and Gun Club.”

In Duval? Don’t worry. You’ll have an opportunity for the Adam Putnam experience Saturday afternoon, when the candidate opens up his Victory Headquarters in a strip mall on Jacksonville’s Southside.

Putnam won’t linger in Dirty Duval for long on Saturday. He is slated to speak Saturday night in Green Cove Springs at the Clay County Flag Day Dinner.

Both candidates are attempting to shore up a key region for Republicans this weekend, though it’s clear that Putnam will have more time on the ground.

In terms of metrics, Putnam still holds serve over DeSantis statewide.

According to the most recent poll of the race, conducted by the Putnam-friendly Florida Chamber, Putnam is ahead 32 percent to 15 percent.

Putnam also has a nearly 3-1 advantage in fundraising, having raised $30 million plus compared to DeSantis’ relatively modest $10.8 million receipts.

Local endorsements, by and large, are still up for grabs in this one.

Will this weekend change that?

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