A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 514

A.G. Gancarski

Two days represent key difference in Terrance Freeman residency hearing

Jacksonville’s motion to intervene in a residency challenge filed last month to a City Council appointment by Gov. Rick Scott, as well as a motion to dismiss the case by the plaintiff’s attorneys, were heard in a Duval County hearing room Friday afternoon by Judge Waddell Wallace.

The magistrate, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999, has been tasked with deciding whether the city has legal standing regarding the case of Terrance Freeman.

The matter will come down to Waddell deciding which of two days Freeman was actually appointed. And deciding that, even if Freeman wasn’t technically a resident, if a potential “cure” of a re-appointment wouldn’t satisfy requirements.

Waddell promised a ruling “soon.”

Plaintiff Brenda Priestly-Jackson (a Democrat) says Republican Freeman, who established residency in District 10 by renting rooms in a private home the day he was appointed (July 10), was circumventing residency requirements.

The personal ties here illustrate this is a relationship business: Freeman was represented by Lindsey Brock, the husband of Council President Aaron Bowman‘s aide. Bowman, Freeman’s former employer, emphatically asserts the legality of the appointment, which he dates as being official on the date of the swearing in on July 12.

That arrangement, coupled with the involvement and shared interests of city and state attorneys, suggested the long odds Priestly-Jackson faces going forth.

Brock urged dismissal, as the case was a “political challenge disguised as a legal challenge.”

Brock contended that Freeman lived in the district once sworn in on July 12, two days after the appointment, and that the Governor had power to do what he wanted without “qualifications” when he suspended Democrat Reggie Brown.

Brock also contended that the judiciary can’t decide, based on separation of powers, and the state Constitution and charter both saying the legislative body has exclusive jurisdiction to decide — which it did before Priestly-Jackson’s filing.

Comparing the case to that of Jay Jabour, bounced from City Council years back for flouting residency requirements, Brock said that was an “election challenge,” which does require residency 183 days before qualifying for the ballot. In the case of appointment, no such requirement applies.

Gov.  Scott‘s attorney, John MacIver, via the State Office of General Counsel, asserted the plaintiff claim lacked cause of action, and that state law was “unambiguous” in giving Scott jurisdiction to appoint as he saw fit.

“Could he appoint a non-resident, a foreign national? I don’t think so,” Waddell mused.

As well, the state attorney noted Scott could simply appoint Freeman again were he bounced, as Freeman has now established residency, and that the vacancy is still temporary as Councilman Reggie Brown‘s lawsuit is still live. [Waddell echoed that later, saying it was a potential “cure.”]

The Jacksonville Office of General Counsel also made its case for intervention, with attorney Jason Teal making the city’s case that “intervention should be allowed.”

The city’s case for intervention rests in its theory of judicial prerogative: Jacksonville contends that it has leeway to determine residency, and that Freeman is an active member of the City Council.

Plaintiff lawyer Leslie Jean-Bart made the contra case, rejecting the claim that the filing was “political.”

“We’re just trying to convey the will of the people,” Jean-Bart said, on “residency requirements.”

“If the Governor decides to reappoint Freeman,” Jean-Bart added, “it would be his decision to do so.”

Jean-Bart also expressed “concern” about the Governor flouting rules in a “minority-access district.” And rejected the claim that an appointment didn’t have to conform with the 183-day rule applicable to elected officials.

Jean-Bart offered no objection to the city’s motion to intervene.

July looks like previous months in Jacksonville City Council fundraising

Fundraising for Jacksonville City Council 2019 races is in full swing, and here’s a look at the landscape. Unmentioned races have no filed candidates at this writing.

In Jacksonville City Council District 1, Democratic incumbent Joyce Morgan filed at the beginning of August, with no appreciable fundraising. Her sole opponent, Republican Bill Bishop, raised $4,400 in July (his best month since launching last October). He has roughly $15,000 on hand.

Incumbent Republican Al Ferraro continues a cakewalk to re-election in District 2. Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan was among the donors that led to a $5,825 July. Ferraro has $46,000 on hand; his only opponent has just over $100 on hand.

In District 4, Council Vice President Scott Wilson kicked off his campaign with $12,000 in July. The Republican has no competition yet.

In District 5, Republican LeAnna Cumber has $176,000 on hand and has paused raising money, given her Democratic opponent has under $500 banked.

District 6 sees two Republicans, Michael Boylan and Rose Conry, battling for an open seat. Neither raised much in July: Boylan, just $475; Conry, $2,100. Conry, with $77,000 on hand, has a 2:1 cash advantage.

District 7 Democrat Reggie Gaffney has $49,000 on hand after a $2,725 July. The field is crowded, yet undercapitalized. His closest competitor, Solomon Olopade, has $12,550 on hand, and most of that is self-funding.

In District 8, Tameka Gaines Holly still leads the field; with $22,000 on hand, she dominates a field where the rest of the candidates are in four figures. The incumbent, appointed Ju’Coby Pittman, has yet to file for election.

District 9 Democrat Marcellus Holmes is the only filed candidate thus far; he has $290 on hand; incumbent Garrett Dennis has yet to file for reelection.

In District 10, where Republican Terrance Freeman was appointed to fill a vacancy created by suspension, fundraising has not been a priority for those running for office. Kevin Monroe, with roughly $1,900 on hand, leads in cash-on-hand.

District 11 Republican incumbent Danny Becton, running unopposed, brought in $17,750 in July, pushing him over $80,000 raised, with over $79,000 on hand.

District 12 Republican Randy White, who was appointed to fill a future vacancy once Doyle Carter‘s resignation takes effect, has no 2019 —opposition  and over $86,000 on hand.

District 13 Republican Rory Diamond has no opposition for an open seat, and $115,000 on hand after July’s $2,650 raised.

In District 14, Democrat Sunny Gettinger, with over $11,000 raised in July, continues to cut into Republican Randy DeFoor‘s cash lead. DeFoor is still up, $117,000 to $90,000, but the margin narrows every month. This will be an open seat, with incumbent Republican Jim Love termed out. Other candidates are farther back in the cash chase.

In at-large races, Republican Chris Whitfield, unopposed in At-large Group 1, has yet to raise money.

In Groups 2-4, Republican Ron Salem, Democrat Tommy Hazouri, and Republican Matt Carlucci look like the best bets. The Republicans have both raised major money against nominal competition. And Hazouri is unopposed.

In Group 5, incumbent Republican Sam Newby has raised just over $18,000 against two opponents. Newby won citywide in 2015 with less than that, however.

Now in LG mix, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams’ re-election fundraising slows to trickle

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, according to POLITICO, is on a list of nine potential Lieutenant Governor picks being considered by Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“The top cop in Duval County is the first and (so far) only sheriff to endorse DeSantis. If the campaign wants to emphasize law and order, the job might be for the taking for Williams. Compared to the other shortlisters, Williams has the closest personal relationship with DeSantis,” the Friday writeup asserts.

Indeed, DeSantis and Williams share a political ally (Kent Stermon), and Williams broke with most of the Republican establishment in Jacksonville and 49 sheriffs statewide, endorsing DeSantis ahead of the debate with Adam Putnam Wednesday.

“When I talk with Ron DeSantis, his view of law enforcement mirrors my own: protecting innocent citizens and holding bad actors accountable. I believe, that as Governor, Ron DeSantis will prioritize law enforcement and will be good for the citizens of Jacksonville.  I am proud to offer him my support,” Williams added.

Whether DeSantis ultimately picks Williams or not is an open question, with considerations that extend beyond personal relationships into regional and demographic appeals. However, it’s interesting that the consideration is happening at a time when Williams’ re-election fundraising has slowed.

Between his campaign and committee accounts, Williams raised just $1,450 in July. This leaves Williams with roughly $440,000 on hand.

Despite a pause in fundraising, Williams is not in appreciable danger at the ballot box. His sole opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, has $700 on hand.

Andrew Gillum: Questions about being a Democratic Socialist are ‘fair game’

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was asked questions in Thursday night’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate town hall that no other candidate was asked.

He was asked, in a question about being endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, whether he considered himself a Democratic socialist.

And he was asked whether he was a socialist or capitalist.

And he was also asked whether he believed there should be a universal guaranteed income.

“These labels are insignificant when it comes to everyday life of people in the state … I’m a Democrat and an individual who believes people have had a rough ride in this state … these labels are easy to throw on folks,” Gillum said, “but mean nothing.”

FP caught up with Gillum after the town hall, and got his take on whether the questions were out of bounds.

“When you’re running for Governor, everything is fair game,” Gillum said. “I try not to complain about those things.”

“I will tell you,” Gillum added, “I don’t make apologies for pushing for an equal opportunity to learn for all kids. I don’t make apologies for the fact that I believe that health care ought to be a right.”

“As I said on stage,” Gillum continued, “even the most conservative of think tanks are projecting that we can save more than $2 trillion and cover more people in the process.”

“To me,” Gillum added, “this is not a red or blue or purple, this is common sense.”

Philip Levine calls out Jeff Greene for ‘passing the Grey Poupon’ at Mar-a-Lago

Thursday night’s town hall forum in Jacksonville between the Democratic field of gubernatorial candidates lacked fireworks.

The media availability afterwards? A different story, as two top-tier candidates slugged it out.

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who was leading in polls up until Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene got in the race, was upbeat when asked the state of the campaign, even as he had a pointed rejoinder for that late-filing opponent.

We asked point blank: would this be a different race if Greene hadn’t gotten in?

“I think that Floridians are getting a good choice with lots of different candidates,” Levine said. “Do they want somebody with no governmental experience to go right to the top job like our President? I don’t think so.”

“When they look at me,” Levine added, “they see somebody who’s not only very successful in business starting from nothing, but this is somebody who’s also been a very successful two-term mayor.”

Levine noted that he “actually fought Donald Trump for a year and a half of his life,” who didn’t “as you can imagine, pass the Grey Poupon at the Kremlin-by-the-Sea, Mar-a-Lago.”

Greene soon enough had comment on Levine’s jibes regarding his relationship with President Trump, as well as context for his description of Trump as a “great guy” after the Republican defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“First of all,” Greene said, “just like President [Barack] Obama and Hillary Clinton when he was elected, I said every American should give our new President a chance, which I did, but it didn’t take me long to see that the kinds of things he’d done, like in Charlottesville and yanking little babies out of their mothers’ arms.”

“I’ve been the strongest opponent of Donald Trump. I’ve been the only one who stood up to him in his own dining room,” Greene said, vowing to “stand up to Donald Trump as Governor of Florida.”

We noted that as a candidate, Trump gave indications that he was not, for Democratic purposes, a “great guy,” and had signalled intentions to govern as he has as soon as he launched his campaign in 2015 with nativist appeals.

“Honestly,” Greene said, “I mean, I think that when I become governor, I hope that Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis will say ‘Jeff’s a great guy, let’s give him a chance’.”

“That’s the American way,” Greene added.

Democratic gubernatorial forum stays sedate, changes no narratives

With under three weeks to go in the Democratic race for Governor, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham leads in most polls against her four opponents going into a televised Thursday forum in Jacksonville.

It was incumbent upon former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, West Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, and Winter Park businessman Chris King to make their cases to voters in an hour-long town hall, counterprogrammed by the home opener of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ preseason.

The question going in: Could any of the four change the narrative of the campaign heading into in-person early voting with approximately nine minutes each of screen time, one that had seen Graham’s slow and steady campaign impervious to attacks from the rest of the field?

The answer: a hard no.

The discussion stayed in the policy vein. There was no need for moderator Kent Justice to quiet the crowd, a contrast to the pitched GOP debate in this theater the night before. And while educational for viewers, the narrative of the race didn’t change, with candidates focusing on attacking Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, rather than each other.

Levine spoke in favor of cannabis legalization and against President Donald Trump. He described the “sanctuary cities” construct as a “Republican ploy to divide us.” And while he supports Enterprise Florida, he doesn’t back “bribing corporations to come [to Florida].”

Greene, who had lobbied vicious attacks on Graham regarding the “American Dream” mall development, had no opportunity to throw elbows in this forum, instead relegated to familiar, positive talking points, such as “Florida needs someone who can be a leader,” along with advocacy for expanded pre-K programs.

“We’re 38th in the country, we should be top 5,” Greene said regarding educational spending.

As was the case with Levine, Greene had no use for Trump (“a national embarrassment”) or paying companies to relocate to the state.

Graham was up next. She noted her past as a PTA mom; she was pressed on the relevance of that, and noted to scattered laughter that the job may have been her toughest ever.

When asked about experience as a chief executive, she noted she ran her household, in addition to spending a term in Congress.

Graham also noted that more money needs to be spent on education, with a “public option” for health insurance allowing for savings via expanding Medicaid.

Her “commitment to health care,” she said, was her biggest difference with the rest of the Democratic field.

It was up to the moderator to ask Graham about the American Dream mall hit.

“My family is not building a mall. Period. End of story,” Graham said, adding that she worked to avoid “an appearance of conflict.” If she could be accused of such a conflict as Governor, Graham said she would recuse herself — and challenged her opponents to make the same declaration.

Her moderate voting record in Congress came up also, with Graham noting she voted with Democrats over 80 percent of the time.

“We could elect robots to Congress and save a lot of money,” Graham said, if “straight party voting” was the desired outcome.

Gillum got his nine minutes next.

“I have been proud to lead this field over a whole range of issues,” including “Medicaid for all” and a “$1 billion program” to improve education and “pay teachers what they’re worth.”

Gillum’s support from Bernie Sanders, a “Democratic socialist,” was questioned.

“These labels are insignificant when it comes to everyday life of people in the state … I’m a Democrat and an individual who believes people have had a rough ride in this state … these labels are easy to throw on folks,” Gillum said, “but mean nothing.”

Gillum also described himself as “the most qualified candidate” in the race, given his tenure in Tallahassee, noting that “business experience” doesn’t equate to governing aptitude.

Gillum went on to invoke a Koch Brothers study that said Medicare for All would save the health care system money, saying that Medicaid expansion would be an immediate priority, were he to be elected.

“Being a cheap date hasn’t worked for Florida,” Gillum said when asked about a proposal to increase the corporate tax rate.

King was the closer. In single digits in most polls, he nonetheless represented his agenda and his candidacy with the grace he’d brought to the trail throughout this bid.

Five Jacksonville City Councilmen back Baxter Troutman for Ag Commissioner

State Rep. Baxter Troutman, in a competitive three-way race for Agriculture Commissioner, picked up a straw poll win at a meeting of the Jacksonville Young Republicans Monday — and scored five local endorsements while in town.

Worth noting: all five endorsers were at the straw poll event, where Troutman and opponent Sen. Denise Grimsley both spoke.

Troutman did have local advantage in closing the deal, as campaign manager Carlo Fassi offered a Duval tie not present on Grimsley’s side.

“As someone who focuses on job creation in Northeast Florida,” said Council President Aaron Bowman, increasingly willing to endorse candidates, “I value the private sector experience Baxter’s candidacy brings to this race.

“The fact that he’s helped place more than 50,000 Floridians in jobs across the state adds serious credibility to his candidacy. That, coupled with his lifetime of experience in production agriculture, makes him the most qualified, conservative candidate in this year’s race to succeed Adam Putnam as Commissioner of Agriculture,” Bowman added

Council VP Scott Wilson also is on board: “Florida’s agriculture industry is facing a turning point. With diseases plaguing commodity products statewide and natural disasters decimating crop production, it’s important we have a Commissioner who empathizes with what farmers are dealing with and has a plan to address this dire situation.”

“Baxter’s plans to help Florida Agriculture are unmatched by any candidate in this race. As a fellow conservative,” Wilson added, “I’m proud to endorse him.”

Councilman Bill Gulliford opined that Troutman “understands the proper role of government and how it should assist, not impede, a thriving economy. He’s thetrue conservative we need as our next Commissioner.”

Councilman Sam Newby called Troutman “the most qualified conservative candidate in this race,” lauding his “agricultural expertise, private sector success, and public service in the House of Representatives.”

“We need our next Commissioner of Agriculture to be someone who understands from experience how burdensome government regulations can be on job creators. As a business owner myself, I trust Baxter Troutman to help create a level playing field for business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the Sunshine State. He’s a proven conservative with the background needed to be an effective Commissioner of Agriculture.”  asserted Councilman Al Ferraro.

“I’m proud to have the support of these Jacksonville City Council members. They are fine public servants with significant experience in the private sector. Their addition to Team Troutman demonstrates the momentum we continue to build along the First Coast. We are going to win this primary,” asserted Troutman.

As is the case in the gubernatorial race, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has not endorsed here. However, if he were to endorse, it likely would be Troutman.

The five endorsers rolled out Thursday are reliable allies on most issues. And Curry’s chief of staff Brian Hughes was running Troutman’s operation before handing it off to Fassi when he began his stint with the city at the beginning of the year.

Polls notwithstanding, Andrew Gillum still thinks he can win

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is facing increasingly long odds in his bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Despite the backing of Tom Steyer and George Soros, Gillum is outspent on the airwaves, and can only watch as poll after poll shows undecideds breaking to Gwen Graham.

It was 18 months ago in Jacksonville that Gillum said his race was predicated on an “18-month view of engagement,” yet with voting already happening by mail, and early voting beginning next week, Gillum is polling closer to Chris King than the other three candidates.

Gillum was in Jacksonville again Thursday, hosting a midday “chat and chew” at the Soul Food Bistro on Jacksonville’s Westside ahead of a forum on Jacksonville television. In a twist of irony, the local Councilman who represents the district containing that restaurant (Garrett Dennis) backs Graham, maligning Gillum for dirty campaigning via the Collective PAC — a leftie outfit that has hit Graham on Gillum’s behalf, using unaccountable money to do its deeds.

Regarding polling, he feels “great” despite the numbers.

“We still have a good number of undecideds out there. We’ve just gone up with our paid communications. People are now learning that I’m a choice in this race. I think we have a strong message. I think our grassroots capacity ought to be the envy of the other four candidates in the race,” Gillum said, noting that election day results can swing wildly from the polls.

“The only poll that matters is the poll on Election Day,” Gillum said, noting in the next breath that a poll from Associated Industries of Florida has him even “with the two candidates who have put the most money into this race … and we’re the only one of the three who seems to be going up.”

When asked about challenges reaching his base voters, Gillum offered the the major question is “around money.”

“The challenge has still been that there are people in this state voting in the primary who don’t know I’m in the primary,” Gillum said, a challenge he will deal with over the next 19 days.

Win, lose, or draw, he noted that he is “extremely proud” of having “run a race of integrity.”

“I really am standing on faith, and the hard work of our volunteers, that we will pull out a win,” Gillum said.

Gillum has no interest in being Lieutenant Governor, he added, should it be offered to him.

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Trump bump for Ted Yoho, as President endorses North Florida Congressman

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho scored a key endorsement on Thursday in Republican primaries, that of President Donald Trump.

Yoho, who is a member of the House Freedom Caucus with Trump’s chosen gubernatorial candidate, Ron DeSantis, is running for his fourth term in Florida’s 3rd Congressional District — an inland North and Central Florida district running from Orange Park to Ocala.

Yoho, who had Freedom Caucus chair Rep. Mark Meadows stumping for him last week, is well-positioned against Republican insurgent Judson Sapp.

As of the end of June, Yoho had over $430,000 on hand, comparing favorably to Sapp’s $133,012 bankroll.

Trump’s endorsement may not move the needle in this race, which has had no indication of being particularly close; however, rest assured the President will find a way to take credit for victory.

Adam Putnam doesn’t ‘resent’ Fox News’ role in the gubernatorial campaign

Many unbiased observers of the Florida gubernatorial race would agree that if President Donald Trump had not endorsed Rep. Ron DeSantis, who unlike Adam Putnam is a regular guest on Fox News, the race on the GOP side would look different.

Up until this week, the one debate the two Republicans had was on Fox News — a showcase of national issues that highlighted DeSantis but overlooked Putnam’s encyclopedic knowledge of the state.

Addressing media Wednesday evening after a debate in Jacksonville, we asked Putnam if he resented the uneven playing field on the conservative network, after he sniped that “water issues don’t get you booked on primetime TV.”

“No, I don’t resent it at all,” Putnam said with an edge in his voice. “I’ve been focused on Florida issues.”

“Many times those shows are focused on only national issues. In fact, overwhelmingly on national issues. That’s what the last debate was all about,” Putnam added, his voice brightening.

“Tonight was a good debate. It was all about Florida. And you got to see the distinction between candidates who know what Florida’s issues are, and candidates who only speak in soundbites about Washington’s ways,” Putnam added.

Of course, without the Fox News platform, it is not as certain that President Donald Trump — an avid fan of the network — would have endorsed DeSantis, who Putnam points out wasn’t exactly clinging to Trump during his aborted 2016 Senate bid.

“I think he did it because he’s been watching Ron on TV for a couple of years. Working that, instead of focusing on Florida, instead of making plans for Florida,” Putnam said.

Putnam more than held his own in the debate Wednesday, barbing DeSantis over and over again, often making DeSantis supporters in the live crowd uncomfortable.

But did it matter?

DeSantis could be overheard as he walked out of the building with his wife, Casey Black DeSantis, and Rep. Matt Gaetz saying that he got more texts during the Fox News debate than the WJXT event, which ran throughout the state, except in the pivotal Tampa Bay market.

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