A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 535

A.G. Gancarski

Deja vu: JEA no-sale resolution iced again in Jacksonville City Council panel

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a first-term Democrat, was thwarted by the committee he once chaired Tuesday in a second straight meeting, regarding a resolution of opposition to sell local utility JEA.

The sale of JEA has been a discussion point in City Hall off and on for the last year, and Dennis is concerned that Council will greenlight the sale down the road.

However, Council doesn’t share Dennis’ concern. His resolution (2018-593) couldn’t even get moved to the floor Tuesday, a second straight meeting that saw the bill held in cold storage.

Patience is wearing thin from Council allies of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Dennis nemesis back when the Councilman was a committee chair months back.

Dennis had pushed similar legislation to the same effect once this year already, and the distraught Democrat dropped science on the silent committee after the non-movement.

“It’s not going away,” Dennis said two weeks prior. “I truly believe that we will be in a better position if this Council votes this resolution up.”

Dennis also cited the issues with the Plant Vogtle development, which JEA entered into in 2008 and has since come to see as a financial albatross. The utility was thwarted last month in efforts to get out of the deal, and since that discussion, the city’s credit has been downgraded by Moody’s Investor Services.

“Dennis has indicated that if we withdraw this bill, he will refile it,” said Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who advised that “these bills can be deferred by the chair and never end up on the agenda for discussion.”

Dennis was allowed a “very brief comment” by Chair Greg Anderson Tuesday, in which he said he was disappointed that Boyer advised him how to kill the bill.

Dennis vowed to bring the JEA sale discussion up in subsequent committee meetings, and warned first-term Council members that this would be an election issue for them in 2019.

For Dennis, a potential mayoral candidate in 2019, this represents another setback.

For the Jacksonville City Council, this is business as usual.

Lenny Curry calls the shots. And Garrett Dennis is not Lenny Curry.

Mr. (Carlos G.) Smith goes to Jacksonville: Re-election fundraiser set

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an East Orlando Democrat representing House District 49, will fundraise in Jacksonville Tuesday evening, in another sign of his increasing prominence statewide.

The event will be in the tony Avondale neighborhood, hosted by Kevin Clair, the husband of local state House hopeful Tracye Polson.

Clair and Polson have become increasingly prominent this cycle, aggressively fundraising and self-funding in an effort to flip the House District 15 seat currently held by Republican Jay Fant.

Smith’s host committee is helmed by yet another state Representative, HD 13’s Tracie Davis, who was unopposed for re-election.

Smith had roughly $83,000 in his campaign account as of Oct. 5. Ben Griffin, his Republican opponent, has just under $46,000 on hand.

Griffin’s campaign has been mostly funded by the Republican Party of Florida, which doled out $50,000 in June.

Since that disbursement, his fundraising has been erratic: his last reported fundraising was over a month ago, when he collected $7,000 from a group of political committees, including those of Northeast Florida powerbrokers.

Sen. Travis Hutson‘s Sunshine State Conservatives and Rep. Paul Renner‘s Florida Foundation for Liberty each cut $1,000 checks.

Rep. Smith is in little danger of defeat. His district is 41 percent Democrat, 26 percent Republican, with the remaining third of voters independent or registered to a third party.

Matt Carlucci leads parade of apparent Jacksonville City Council shoo-ins

Jacksonville political veteran Matt Carlucci, a Republican running for City Council in At Large Group 4, was the first candidate in the 2019 cycle to clear $250,000 raised.

He did that by the end of March, a signal that Carlucci — a former Mayoral candidate, a previous member of the Council, and most recently, the head of the Florida Commission on Ethics — would not be outraised.

Carlucci has put the fundraising on the backburner, and has turned to pushing endorsements from prominent politicians of his generation.

The latest in what will be a long list: former two-term Mayor John Delaney, whose tenure had overlap with that of Carlucci.

“Matt’s character and integrity are deep in his core. He knows how to bring people together to make great things happen for the city we both love. He understands that Jacksonville is at its best when we are together,” said Delaney.

Delaney’s endorsement follows that of another former two-term mayor, Democrat Jake Godbold, and such plaudits will only augment a sense of inevitability for Carlucci’s return to the Council dais. Especially given that the candidate has almost a quarter-million dollars on hand.

His opponents have thus far not managed impressive fundraising. Through the end of September, Republicans Harold McCart and Don Redman have $21,000 and $12,000 on hand respectively. Newly filed Democrat Alexander Watkins has yet to report any receipts.

The four way race may ensure a May runoff after the March first election; thus far, however, one candidate has most of the juice.

The Carlucci race is the most extreme example of a trend in Council races, one of deep fundraising disparities as the election nears, as end-of-September bookkeeping reveals.

In District 2, incumbent Republican Al Ferraro has nearly $63,000 on hand; his two opponents have raised under $500 between them.

In District 5, Republican LeAnna Cumber has about $177,000 on hand. Her one Democratic opponent, James Jacobs, has languished with under $500 on hand for months.

In District 7, incumbent “Curry-crat” Reggie Gaffney has over $56,000 on hand, more money than his six opponents have raised between them. District 8 sees Democrat Tameka Gaines Holly likewise with more on hand than her 11 opponents have raised.

In At Large Group 4, Republican Ron Salem has nearly $174,000 on hand; Democrat Darren Mason has $745.

And in AL-5, incumbent Republican Sam Newby has $27,000 on hand, with Democrats Niki Brunson and Chad McIntyre with just over $4,000 between them (all of it in McIntyre’s account).

Some candidates have bankrolls and no competition at all.

District 4 incumbent Republican Scott Wilson has $21,900 on hand. Danny Becton, another incumbent Republican, has over $87,000 on hand for his return bid. District 13 Republican Rory Diamond has over $117,000 banked. And AL-3 Democrat Tommy Hazouri has no competition and his own six-figure bankroll.

Ex-felon voter restoration Amendment 4 gets $5M ad buy

With vote-by-mail underway and early in-person voting just a week away, the Second Chances Campaign announced a $5 million broadcast ad buy Monday.

The pro-Amendment 4 group’s television and radio spots will include personal stories from reformed felons who are still denied spent, and from experts in favor of restoring civil rights for those who have done their time.

“We are excited to share stories with people all across Florida as we approach the start of early voting in Florida,” stated Floridians for a Fair Democracy Campaign Manager Jackie Lee.

“Floridians from all walks of life have been energized by this grassroots campaign,” Lee added, “and with this ad buy we are bringing the message of second chances to voters across the state.”

These messages include stories of Alan Rhyelle, a Vietnam veteran with a Purple Heart but no right to vote due to being convicted of cannabis possession, as well as former Assistant State Attorney Gary Winston of Miami-Dade County.

Of the nearly $5 million, over $500,000 will go to a Spanish language TV buy, and $700,000 will go to what the media release calls “radio stations serving minority communities.”

The spots will be live in every media market in the state, and the hope is that they help continue the momentum established in recent polling that shows Amendment 4 on track to pass with 71 percent support.

Human rights no concern as UAE cuts Jacksonville a check

On Monday, Northside Jacksonville’s A. Philip Randolph Career Academies saw Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry receive the U.S. Ambassador from the UAE, Yousef Al-Otaiba.

Money was on the line. $2.775 million, to be exact (part of a $10 million grant to be divided between several cities hit hardest by Hurricane Irma.)

Indeed, portions of this grant have already been delivered to Florida, with Collier County receiving its $2.7 million cut in August.

While local leaders appreciate revenue, there is a parallel story to the check: the UAE’s distressing and worsening human rights record.

The UAE has made a longstanding practice of storm relief, and there are those who believe it is a distraction from the regime’s human rights record, which is in keeping with the non-Democratic states of the Middle East.

Human Rights Watch spotlights imprisonment of political dissidents and a “sustained assault on freedom of expression and association since 2011,” which includes the death penalty for people who are determined to have worked to “undermine national unity or social peace.”

Definitions for that are subjective.

The UAE also actively participates in the ongoing war in Yemen, a proxy battle between the Saudis and Iran; its role, on the Saudi side, includes helming counterterrorism ops and running detention centers.

Furthermore, HRW charges the UAE with detaining and disappearing political prisoners (similarly to the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after a visit to a Saudi consulate this month), exploiting migrant labor, and systemic discrimination against women (facilitated by Sharia Law).

In the context of an erosion of human rights backdropped against a wave of post-storm generosity, we asked the Ambassador and the Mayor if such donations were intended to gloss over a record not in accordance with the mores of liberal democracies.

When we asked about the imprisoned political dissident Ahmed Mansoor, locked up as of this writing for 10 years for tweeting criticisms of the regime, the Ambassador smiled.

“We’re here to talk about our gifts to Jacksonville,” Al-Otaiba asserted. “If you want to ask me a question about what our laws are, we’re happy to address that. But that’s not why we’re here today.”

Curry spotlighted the “two-million dollars, invested in vulnerable populations in Jacksonville.”

Regarding “foreign policy,” Curry said “there’s experts in Washington, elected leaders in Washington who handle our foreign policy,” before pivoting to thank the Ambassador once more.

Applause filled the room, followed by stern looks from the Ambassador’s handlers, and a conversation with a plainclothes member of law enforcement who questioned whether this reporter was a real member of the media.

From there, Curry and Al-Otaiba toured the school. Media was invited along until the two went through a door, at which point reporters and cameramen were told to wait for a post-event availability.

Time passed, and three SUVs (two attached to the Ambassador, and another for the Mayor) departed the premises.

The money will be used for various expenditures, including computer labs for Raines and Ribault High Schools, restoration of a local park, purchase of mobile medical units, with approximately $1.45 million going to projects in the Ken Knight Road area, which was among the slowest in the city to recover from Irma.

Jacksonville City Council committee punts on opposing homestead exemption change

On Monday morning, the first of three Jacksonville City Council committees of reference mulled a resolution of strong opposition to Amendment 1 on the 2018 ballot.

The amendment would boost the homestead exemption by $25,000 to $75,000.

City leaders have fretted about the impact to the city budget, reducing millage collections by $27.4 million.

However, bill sponsor Matt Schellenberg wasn’t in the ponderously-named Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee Monday, and the committee did not move the bill through on an emergency basis, so there was no vote.

The bill needs to be moved through the full City Council next week, if the Council intends to take a position on this Amendment.

Theoretically, it could be discharged from committee and put on the Council agenda as an emergency next week.

The bill has two committee stops on Tuesday, Finance and Rules. Schellenberg is on Rules.

Tracye Polson, Wyman Duggan racing to raise money in HD 15

While most of Jacksonville-area state House races are settled in the primary (by dint of gerrymandering), an exception is in the one true swing district: House District 15 on the Westside.

With current Republican incumbent Jay Fant walking away this year, Democrat Tracye Polson and Republican Wyman Duggan are vying to replace him.

Each week’s fundraising report has brimmed with narrative interest. This week’s story: Polson is both outraising and outspending Duggan, at least through Oct. 5 (the last day of current reporting).

One check was of particular interest.

However, Democrats can’t rest easy: It appears the Republican Party of Florida may spend enough on Duggan’s TV buys to make up for Polson’s cash edge.

Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, Polson brought in $16,060 to her campaign account. Of the $319,667 in hard money deposited, Polson has $35,483 on hand.

Among the major donors to the campaign account: the Florida Education Association PAC (which also gave $10,000 to the political committee), Florida Fire PAC, and ABC Liquors.

Perhaps of greatest consequence: A $1,000 check from the political committee Florida Alliance for Better Government.

That committee, chaired by former Florida Democratic Party chair and current U.S. Sugar and Florida Power and Light lobbyist Screven Watson, gave to Polson as part of a round of donations to the Democratic Party and a political committee associated with Democratic CFO hopeful Jeremy Ring.

The interesting part of the donation to Polson and other Democrats was that it was delivered the same month the committee got $75,000 of seed money from Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, That committee is chaired by Ryan Tyson of the traditionally Republican-leaning Associated Industries of Florida.

In addition to the nearly $36,000 in the campaign account, Polson has nearly $64,000 in the committee cash box. Polson has been spending heavily on television, running a second ad this week spotlighting Republican Duggan’s career as a lobbyist. With the ability and willingness to self-finance, Polson will undoubtedly be spending until the end.

And she will have to spend that $100,000 to keep pace with establishment favorite Wyman Duggan, who rode a raft of endorsements and multiple ads featuring Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to a win with 40 percent of the vote in a three-way primary.

Over the past three weeks, Duggan has brought in $76,500 in hard money, pushing him near parity with $85,000 on hand.

Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, Duggan raised $10,850 to his campaign account, bringing that total to nearly $67,000 on hand.

Duggan also has roughly $18,000 in his political committee, though with no donations in the latest reporting period.

Of the new money raised, $600 came from ZIP codes in HD 15. Among the donors from outside the district: the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, the Realtors PAC, and Gulf Coast Health Care, a nursing home in Pensacola.

Already, Duggan has benefited from over $100,000 air support from the Republican Party of Florida, which has funded attack ads, including a bristling spot associating Polson with drum circles, flag burners, and other elements of The Resistance.

The district has a slight Democratic registration edge, and that’s reflected in the polls we have heard about.

An internal Polson poll from SEA Polling and Strategic Design a couple of weeks back showed Duggan up two points (41-39) in what Democrats see as a swing district. There are polls, we are told by Republican operatives not aligned with Duggan, that also have Polson up.

The seat did go for Donald Trump two years ago, though Democrats haven’t fielded a candidate in HD 15 since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections, so its lean in down-ballot races hasn’t been tested.

Fundraising slows for Jacksonville incumbent legislators

In Northeast Florida, most of the live state House races and the only state Senate race are characterized by a fundamental cash disparity.

Republicans have serious bank; Democrats are far behind.

However, this most recently reported week saw Republicans coasting while Democrats actually won the weekly tally battle (even as cash-on-hand was less buoyant for them).

The Democrat running for state Senate, District 4’s Billee Bussard outraised incumbent Republican Aaron Bean, bringing in $4,445. Meanwhile, between his campaign account and that of his Florida Conservative Alliance political committee, Bean brought in just $3,250 between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5.

However, Bean has roughly $93,000 in hard money and nearly $86,000 more in the committee coffers. This gives him a nearly 20 to 1 cash advantage over Bussard, who has roughly $9,000 on hand.

Bussard, for those interested in helping her cause, has a funder Monday.

In majority-Republican House District 11, incumbent Cord Byrd is winning the fundraising battle with Democrat Nathcelly Rohrbaugh.

Byrd has been a relatively relaxed fundraiser, and the week between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5 was no exception.

Byrd raised $4,150 off five checks to his campaign account, bringing that north of $53,000 on hand. Additionally, the first-term Representative has nearly $10,000 in his 1845 political committee.

Rohrbaugh brought in $1,300 during the week, pushing his campaign account near $17,000 on hand.

HD 11 is closer than HD 12 and 16 in aggregate.

Clay Yarborough, running for re-election in Southside Jacksonville’s Republican-plurality House District 12, likewise had modest fundraising ($3,100 in the last week) and bigger spending ($9,043) as the election approaches. He has $98,000 on hand.

Democrat Tim Yost raised $1,258 during the same period, and carries $9,000 into the final stretch of the campaign.

Turning to House District 16, State Rep. Jason Fischer, first-term Republican, has had a consistent cash lead over Democrat Ken Organes.

Fischer did not fundraise between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5. Fischer had nearly $108,000 in his campaign account, and under $5,000 in the account of his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.

Organes, meanwhile, brought in $1,225 over the same period, and has just over $26,500 on hand.

One race is an obvious outlier to this trend: the clash for an open seat in HD 15, between Democrat Tracye Polson and Republican Wyman Duggan.

These candidates will be fundraising heavily until the end.

Polson has nearly $100,000 on hand, even after heavy television buys and engaging a full campaign staff. She’s ahead of Duggan, who has just $77,000 on hand.

Each campaign is getting help from its respective state party, and both sides feel confident enough to endlessly trash talk the other side’s operation.

Polson has structural advantages, such as the ability to self-finance and to network with regional and national players in the Democratic Party, that the other Democrats running for berths to Tallahassee do not.

Her district is also plurality Democrat, and the race is tight, according to polls.

Jimmy Patronis: ‘You’re not supposed to come home and see your town gone’

On Friday afternoon, Jimmy Patronis stood in front of the wreckage of his childhood memories and talked to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

A Panama City Beach native who represented the area in the state House before appointed last year to be the state’s Chief Financial Officer, Patronis used as a backdrop his storm-ravaged junior high school to address the unprecedented devastation Hurricane Michael brought to his hometown.

“You’re not supposed to come home and see your town gone … to see everything that meant something to you all in a pile of rubble,” he said, voice cracking under the weight of emotion.

“What I’m standing in front of right now is the junior high school I went to,” Patronis said.

“I played basketball in that gymnasium. I was in shop class right next to it, and it’s no more” he said. “This is just a snapshot of what Panama City is like. Panama City, Mexico Beach, Apalachicola … it’s been scraped off the map.”

Patronis continued: “Our two primary hospitals, Gulf Coast Medical Center and Bay Med. My children were born at Gulf Coast. I was born in Bay Med.”

“They have suffered catastrophic failures and have been evacuated,” he said.

The destruction goes beyond the structural, of course, and the ultimate human toll remains to be seen.

Patronis had no idea how many people need rescue services, given gaps in communications.

“Verizon Wireless doesn’t exist in Bay County anymore,” the CFO said about the storm-wrecked telecom network. “It was the dominant carrier. So nobody has the ability to communicate. If you’re with Verizon, you’re out of luck.”

“It’s been crippled. There’s no internet. No power. So even watching a television broadcast is a challenge,” Patronis said. “The loved ones are panicking right now.”

“So [knowing] who is truly trapped and who is saved is a challenge,” Patronis said.

He said the death toll stands at 13, a “preliminary” number.

Patronis added: “350,000 people were told to evacuate. Our shelters had about 6,000 bodies who evacuated safely. So what’s the number there? Who stayed, and who left? Because the shelters weren’t that full.”

Andrew Gillum talks tightening polls, storm recovery challenges

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is guiding the capital city through post-storm recovery, but the Democratic gubernatorial nominee found some time Friday to talk with MSNBC’s Katy Tur.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign came up.

Turning to polling, Tur noted the race with Ron DeSantis is tightening according to recent individual surveys.

While the Real Clear Politics average is a 3.7 point lead for Gillum, the two most recent polls in the index show it as just a one point race.

Gillum, who consistently trailed in polls ahead of the primary (though with a surge during early voting that some polls caught), has clearly become accustomed to the horserace — even if he’s winning

“I’m not big on polls, even though the recent ones have me leading, there wasn’t a single one that had me leading [before the primary],” Gillum said, adding that Florida is a “one percent state” in elections.

“My concern has been more squarely focused here at home,” Gillum said.

Also, Gillum discussed storm recovery.

“Our biggest challenge is the fact that my community has 50 percent tree cover,” Gillum said. “It’s our hope to have 90 percent people with power by the end of Sunday.”

Tur also asked Gillum about how he would deal with President Donald Trump during storms as Governor.

“The job of the Governor … is to do what’s in the best interest of the people of the state,” Gillum said, adding that he’d like to see the President “put partisanship and political interest aside” in storm recovery.

The interview was brief. Tur noted that she invited “Rick DeSantis” to appear on the program also, but he declined.

Likely, she had no better luck booking “Ron Scott.”

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