A.G. Gancarski – Page 4 – Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

‘I don’t believe in polls,’ says Gwen Graham

Former Rep. Gwen Graham continues her campaign for Florida Governor this week, and on the heels of her endorsement from the Florida Education Association, she is doing what’s logical: workdays and appearances predicated on the theme of education (the “backbone of [her] campaign”).

Jacksonville on Thursday morning was no exception; the candidate was doing one of her workdays at a local Early Head Start program.

In that capacity, Graham had a lot of playtime with toddlers (perhaps a prerequisite for the Legislative Session), and served them lunch (chicken nuggets, sweet potato fries, and fruit).

While Graham’s approval rating with Northwest Jacksonville toddlers is sky-high, less certain is her stature with Florida voters.

A poll this month showed Graham fading against Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, down 32 to 16 percent, cratering in Miami and Tampa and running in a tie for third with Chris King in Orlando.

That didn’t outwardly concern Graham. 

“I don’t believe in polls. You can find a poll to tell you whatever you want a poll to tell you,” Graham said. “I’m not at all concerned about any poll or any individual. I feel really positive about where our campaign is, and we’re going to win this race.”

We asked her if she was the “frontrunner,” but she didn’t like that term.

Graham is up on television, with major buys in Orlando and Tampa. However, she said poll numbers didn’t drive the ad buy.

“We were ready to get up on TV when the timing was right. We’re running the smartest campaign. It was just the right timing,” Graham said, before observing that “campaigning is a different process than it was 40 years ago.”

“What we do everyday is we wake up and hopefully have an opportunity to talk and learn from Floridians what their challenges are, because that’s what this election is about. It’s about having a governor who cares about Floridians again,” Graham said.

While TV is “important,” Graham cited the importance of social media and new media as other ways to reach voters.

Meanwhile, Graham has found herself outflanked to the left by three of her opponents on the issue of cannabis legalization.

Graham noted that she was the first candidate to come out in favor of a Special Session on medical marijuana.

“Anytime there’s an opportunity to alleviate pain and suffering, we should not only take advantage of it, but should make sure it’s available immediately,” Graham said.

“We also have a real crisis in the state in opioid addiction,” Graham added. “Let’s get medical marijuana implemented.”

“I think the conversation about legalization is one we ought to have. It’s one that I want to have. But to take this in a incremental approach so we can get medical marijuana implemented,” Graham said.

Graham does advocate decriminalization of “minor amounts of marijuana, 20 grams or less.”

The Graham campaign has been predicated on bringing together traditional Democratic constituencies, and the candidate has the endorsement traction to prove it.

The question of whether that is a winning strategy with voters in 2018 will be answered before August ends.

In fraud case, Katrina Brown representation up in air, Reggie Brown gets court appointed lawyer

Two Jacksonville City Council members, Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, are dealing with dozens of federal fraud charges.

61-page indictment dropped in federal court late last month details 38 counts in a scheme to defraud.

Federal prosecutors allege the Browns, who are not related, collaborated in a scheme that used shell companies as ways to extract, via transfers and fraudulent invoicing, hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Small Business Administration brokered loan intended to fund Katrina Brown’s family’s barbecue sauce plant.

The Browns have a status hearing in Jacksonville’s federal courthouse Thursday morning, and a central question remained unanswered: Who would represent them in legal proceedings?

M. Alan Ceballos, who represented Reggie Brown two weeks ago in court, told Florida Politics Wednesday that was a complicated matter and will be addressed by both him and Katrina Brown’s lawyer, Curtis Fallgatter, in court Thursday.

Katrina Brown was up first, and in her case, a delay in determining her lawyer was requested and received.

Fallgatter cited “delays in the discussion,” but “there is a valid financial plan in place to retain the firm.”

He asked for two more weeks from Judge James Klindt.

Klindt raised concerns via the “speedy trial clock.”

For the federal government, A. Tysen Duva raised concerns that “in two weeks, we’ll be in the same situation.”

“I know this is important to Miss Brown … my concern is in two weeks nothing will happen … the representation issue has to be settled,” Duva said, to get the case onto the August trial calendar.

Klindt split the difference and set a status hearing for a week out in Katrina Brown’s case.

Regarding Reggie Brown, Ceballos noted the councilman wanted court-appointed counsel, citing “indigency.”

Councilman Brown, who has spent more than $3,000 out of pocket on his state Senate campaign while retiring past due property taxes, may not have seemed like a plausible candidate for indigency.

But with his Council salary cut off, all he had coming in was his pay as a member of the Army Reserve, with $2,000 in bank accounts, and two late-model cars.

In terms of obligations, Brown has child support payments to two twin sons.

“Knowing what I know about fees in this type of case,” Klindt said, “I find it highly improbable that a lending institution would lend you money.”

Brown will have to deposit $1,000 to defray billing in this case, with potentially more financial obligations if he were to get a job.


Jacksonville is no stranger to fraud trials for its politicians, and part of those narratives has involved shifting legal representation.

Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, currently serving five years in federal prison after being convicted of 18 counts in her own scheme to defraud, had multiple changes in legal representation during her pre-conviction phase.

With each change of lawyer, questions mounted regarding Corrine Brown’s defense, including whether she could afford her lawyers or disagreements on trial strategy.

Undoubtedly, those paying close attention to the trials of Reggie Brown and Katrina Brown will speculate along similar lines, should there be similar vagaries in representation.

Even as the legal drama continues in federal court, the decision on who will fill the indicted Democrats’ places on Council remains, with no timetable for resolution.


On June 1, Gov. Rick 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 Williams, Dwight 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.

If the Council members resigned, there would be a special election. However, the choice made by the Democrats was to stay in office and let Gov. Scott work out the details of succession.

When a reporter asked Councilwoman Brown if she was going to resign she was mum.

We then asked what happened to the money.

Her attorney (at least for now) said that was a “disrespectful question” from a “biased reporter.”

Florida Politics will be back next week with more from the court action.

Firefighters’ group has Bill Nelson’s back

Sen. Bill Nelson kicked off Thursday with an endorsement from Florida Professional Firefighters. And by the end of the day, Gov. Rick Scott had an energetic response.

The group, which represents over 25,000 firefighters and EMS personnel across Florida, endorsed the incumbent Democrat as a staunch defender of firefighters and first responders.

“For those who are willing to risk their lives every day to protect millions of Floridians, it’s so important to have the support of leaders we know will support us, our work, our benefits and our families and Sen. Nelson has been a tremendous advocate for Florida’s firefighters,” said James Tolley, president of Florida Professional Firefighters.

“Sen. Nelson has been steadfast in his support of firefighters and first responders, working to protect our health care and benefits. Sen. Nelson led the fight in Congress to secure funding for training and vital equipment and technology to keep our firefighters and first responders safe on the job. When our benefits have been under attack,” Tolley added, “we know Sen. Nelson will always have our back in fighting for us and the support we need to do our jobs.”

Nelson said it was an “absolute honor to receive the support of Florida’s firefighters and first responders — the men and women who risk their lives to protect Floridians every single day.”

“These public servants have dedicated their lives to keep our communities safe, and we owe it to our first responders, their families and their communities to ensure they have the equipment and technology to perform their jobs and for us to do everything in our power to advocate for their health care, pensions and other benefits,” Nelson added.

Expect the Nelson campaign to contrast Nelson’s record to that of Gov. Rick Scott.

The media release asserts that Gov. Scott “personally killed a $2,000 pay raise for underpaid state firefighters who earn an average salary of $27,475 a year.”

The Scott campaign, meanwhile, countered with reiterations of claims that Nelson was a career politician.

“As usual, Bill Nelson is hoping that Floridians will only pay attention to what he has to say, and not what he has actually done – which is vote time and time again in favor of raising his own salary so he can collect more than $4 million from hardworking taxpayers. Meanwhile, Governor Scott has secured important investments and legislation that actually make a difference in ensuring law enforcement officers and teachers have the resources they need to succeed. While Nelson continues to do everything he can to protect his job, Governor Scott will continue to fight for the jobs of Florida families,” asserted Lauren Schenone, Scott for Florida Press Secretary.

Jacksonville City Council candidate Randy DeFoor outlines vision, reason for running

The race to succeed termed-out Republican Jim Love in Jacksonville City Council District 14 is well underway, with three campaigns looking competitive nine months out from the first vote.

Democrats Sunny Gettinger and Jimmy Peluso are running strong campaigns early, but there are only two tickets out of the March “First Election” and into the May “General Election,” and currently leading in fundraising is Republican Randy Shoemaker DeFoor.

DeFoor, who by trade is a Senior Vice President, National Agency Counsel at Fidelity National Financial in Jacksonville, is Jacksonville born and bred.

An alumna of Episcopal High School, her family has been in Jacksonville for generations. But her motivation for running, she said in an interview at Riverside’s Bold Bean Coffee Wednesday, was driven by a potential breach of that legacy.

When one of her children graduated from the University of Virginia, she noted to herself that the “children she worked so hard to raise and educate would be for other cities’ benefits.”

This nettled DeFoor.

While participating in Leadership Florida, she went to the other major cities in the state, and came away convinced of Jacksonville’s superiority, in terms of everything from medical facilities and physical plan to the people.

The candidate believes, by and large, that Jacksonville is on the right track.

She thinks Mayor Lenny Curry, a fellow Republican who is just exiting his third year in office, has “done a very good job.”

Among Curry’s accomplishments are pension reform, and the fact that “downtown’s up and running,” with development ranging from the Barnett Trio to local colleges planning operations downtown.

Curry has messaged heavily on public safety, and has hired 180 more police officers. DeFoor thinks that still more officers are needed, given Jacksonville’s sprawling land size and the realities of law enforcement being spread thin because resources are concentrated in crime hot spots.

“Zone 4, which includes District 14, has the highest call rate in the city,” DeFoor said.

In addition to public safety, DeFoor believes that infrastructure issues are of paramount importance.

“Avondale, Riverside, and Ortega were all underwater during Irma,” the candidate said.

As well, “smart” growth is key as Jacksonville expands, she said.

When asked about leaders of the past she found inspirational, she mentioned two former City Council Presidents from the district: Michael Corrigan, now of Visit Jacksonville; and former Rep. Tillie Fowler.

“My district has had an unusually high number of strong, effective council members,” DeFoor said.

Donald Trump trouble again for Al Lawson campaign, as manager RTs the President

The bizarre meta-narrative in the Democratic primary campaign in Florida’s 5th Congressional District continued Wednesday, with the incumbent’s campaign manager retweeting a singularly unpopular figure with Florida Democrats.

Rep. Al Lawson‘s campaign manager Phillip Singleton RT’d President Donald Trump‘s rumination on petroleum prices: “Oil prices are too high, OPEC is at it again. Not good!”

For the Lawson campaign, this is the second time in a month that RTs of Trump made news.

The first RT saw Lawson’s account support Trump’s allegations of Democratic corruption, cooperation with Russia, and bashing of the “fake news media.”

The second RT saw Lawson’s account support Trump’s imposition of tariffs against traditional U.S. allies in Mexico, Canada, and the EU, a tweet that condemned “stupid trade.”

After deleting the tweets, Lawson asserted the “campaign accounts” were “breached” and  “hacked,” an example of “dirty politics at best.”

Lawson has indicated a willingness to work with Trump, voicing it in May in Jacksonville among what some listeners took as criticisms of the Congressional Black Caucus.

When asked about a claim from 538.com regarding his voting with President Donald Trump more often than some might like: “If it’s good legislation, doesn’t make a difference if it comes from Trump or anybody. If it benefits this area, I support it.”

“The man is the president of the United States,” Lawson added, noting that he finds it perplexing when people castigate him for not voting with the Congressional Black Caucus on every roll call vote.

“Nobody in the Black Caucus voted for me. That’s why I don’t understand when people say [I] don’t vote with the Black Caucus,” Lawson said, noting that he votes for what his district wants.

The question of Lawson clapping for the President at the last State of the Union came up also.

“There were other African-Americans there who did clap, but the camera focused on me,” Lawson said, noting that “some people take a spin, opponents and stuff, say ‘he is the President’s new best friend.”

“I’m the friend of the people who are going to help my constituents,” Lawson said, to scattered applause. “You don’t have to like the President, but if the President is doing something for the people you serve, you embrace him.”

Democrats may believe, however, that there is a difference between working across the aisle and RTing the man who is Public Enemy #1 for most activist Democrats.

Lawson, a first-term Congressman from Tallahassee, is facing a primary challenge from former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown in the sprawling east/west district.

Meanwhile, Singleton offered a lengthy defense of the RT from his personal account, which we are posting in full below.

“This is the personal twitter account of my brand – Hip Hop Lobbyist. I’ve liked and retweeted posts from Pusha T, Drake, P. Diddy, Ferrari Simmons, Rick Ross, Shannon Sharpe, Netflix, Charlamagne The God, The Hill, BallerAlert, The Shade Room, Marc Caputo, Peter Schorsch, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Richard Corcoran, Jose Pepe Diaz, Karen Civil, Sportscenter, AG Gancarski and others over the age of my account. To be honest, I actually tweeted Peter Schorsch regarding a playlist for politicos on the campaign trail this summer that could keep people motivated. Maybe it could go under the Sachs Media Group daily informational in the Sunburn. I got no response. Could you comment on the non reply to my tweet? Also, to wrap this up, since launching my Hip Hop Lobbyist brand my mission has been to bridge the gap between the urban culture and political world. I’ve done this in the Florida Legislature by securing funding in the budget for at-risk youth in high crime communities, minority owned businesses, green and technology businesses, while also working with people in the entertainment industry to better understand politics. As the only black millennial lobbyist in solo practice in Florida, and fully understanding my mission, anything liked or retweeted to my account is for informational purposes to the culture of people who could care less about politics.”

AFL-CIO ‘playing politics’ with Alvin Brown endorsement, claims Al Lawson camp

In an unprecedented move, the Florida AFL-CIO waded into the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, endorsing challenger Alvin Brown over incumbent Rep. Al Lawson.

Per an official statement, the endorsement came down to Brown’s record.

“Our members and their families in Jacksonville saw Mayor Brown’s commitment to the fundamental economic issues we care about,” said Mike Williams, President of the Florida AFL-CIO.

“Union members in Tallahassee have been inspired by his record in Jacksonville, and his dedication to working families is now well known across our movement in Florida. We are proud to give him our endorsement for Congress, and we look forward to working hard to send him to represent us in Washington,” Williams said.

Lawson’s campaign manager Phillip Singleton had a different take.

Namely, the union was “playing politics” with its endorsement.

“We find it very interesting that there has never been a situation where unions have endorsed a candidate over a sitting Democratic member of Congress. However, for over a month Congressman Lawson knew that the leadership in AFL-CIO was playing politics with this endorsement because of a vote in the Florida Legislature over a decade ago,” Singleton said.

“Now AFL-CIO has set a precedent where they endorsed a person with a track record of firing union workers, trying to balance budget deficits with union member pensions, and no true record of supporting union positions,” Singleton added.

Brown offered a statement of his own.

“Working families are the backbone of our economy, and I am honored to have the support of the AFL-CIO in this race. In Congress, I will always put workers, students and families first, and promote policies that help us build a fair economy that works for all — not just those at the top,” Brown said.

The endorsement theater in this primary has been particularly pitched. Recently, Jacksonville’s Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Lawson over the city’s former mayor.

JEA CEO proposes earmarking land sale proceeds for infrastructure issues

On Tuesday evening, the Jacksonville City Council approved incentives for The District, a 30-acre Southbank development on the site of the former JEA Southside Generating Station.

As part of that deal, developers Peter Rummell and Michael Munz have a deal via their Elements Development to buy the land for $18.6 million from the JEA Board.

JEA interim CEO Aaron Zahn, in a letter sent to the Mayor’s Office Tuesday, proposed that at least some of the proceeds be earmarked to deliver municipal sewer services to underserved communities, including older neighborhoods that have been waiting for those amenities since Jacksonville and Duval County consolidated 50 years ago.

“I recommend JEA reserve a portion of the proceeds from the Elements transaction to engage the best and brightest engineering and commercial minds to study the issue and propose previously unconsidered solutions. Additionally, I recommend JEA consider offering the balance of the proceeds (~$15-16 million) to the City as a one-time contribution to support important community goals like septic tank phase out,” Zahn wrote.

JEA and the city have collaborated in recent years in phasing out septic tanks in these older neighborhoods, with a shared $30 million burden codified in the last JEA Agreement, forged in 2016 and running to 2021.

However, that money is a small fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for the project.

Previous estimates ranged from $300 million to $1 billion, but per Zahn’s letter, that estimate is optimistic: “This subject has been studied and partially addressed over a number of years through traditional means and methods and with a seemingly insurmountable expense (>$2.5 billion).”

Zahn, who wants to be permanent CEO for Jacksonville’s public utility, has faced political resistance from some Councilors (notably Garrett Dennis) in that quest.

Dennis sees the proposal as vindication for JEA remaining a public utility.

“I applaud our city owned utility for putting its ratepayers first.  This is why I have been adamantly against any plan to privatize JEA.  The consideration to invest the proceeds to infrastructure and septic tank phase out would not have been on the table with a private company,” he said Wednesday.

Likewise, Council President Anna Brosche has been a fierce critic of Zahn and of the city incentives on the sale of the Southside Generating Station.

However, Brosche was amenable to Zahn’s proposal, calling it “a welcome contribution toward a likely $1 billion problem that has plagued our community for decades and stems from promises made during consolidation.”

“It is also an example of the benefits of the partnership the City of Jacksonville has enjoyed with JEA under our current independent authority structure,” Brosche noted.

Zahn’s proposal would be discussed by the JEA Board June 19.

Gwen Graham highlights May donors for Tracie Davis HD 13 re-election bid

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham was the biggest name among a list of 30 May contributors to the re-election campaign of Jacksonville Democrat Rep. Tracie Davis.

Graham’s $500 contribution was just part of the $8,165 haul for Davis, a first-term representative facing a primary challenge from a former aide of her Duval Delegation colleague, Rep. Kim Daniels.

Worth noting: Graham also gave money to another Jacksonville candidate, HD 15 Democrat Tracye Polson, in May.

Other May donors of note for Davis include Comcast, which gave $1,000, and Florida Blue CEO Darnell Smith.

Davis has raised $49,980 this cycle, with over $47,000 of that money on hand.

Davis’ primary opponent, Roshanda M. Jackson, continued to flounder in May fundraising, raising no money.

Jackson has just under $800 cash on hand.

Davis first won election in 2016, replacing Rep. Reggie Fullwood, who withdrew from his re-election campaign after pleading guilty to charges related to campaign finance irregularities.

The Davis/Jackson race is not the only primary contest Duval Democrats will mull regarding Tallahassee representation.

At least for now, State Sen. Audrey Gibson will face indicted and suspended Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown on the August primary ballot.

New Rick Scott ad compares Bill Nelson to Ford Pinto

The Ford Pinto, a tragicomic compact car that came out of Detroit in the 1970s, was known for a design flaw: its rear-mounted gas tank made the car prone to explosion when rear-ended.

Despite these issues, the car was still the most popular American compact even in 1978.

A new ad from the Senate campaign of Gov. Rick Scott invokes the dread image of the Pinto, noting that forty years ago, as the car still filled lots from coast to coast, current Sen. Bill Nelson was just entering Congress.

Forty years later, the ad posits, most Pintos are rusting away in junkyards … but Nelson is still in D.C., a member of the Senate.

The juxtaposition of the bygone commuter car and the long-serving U.S. Senator is at the heart of Scott’s latest ad, “Pinto,” which uses a horn-driven, funkafied backing track to drive home a message.

“Forty years later, a lot of things changed, but Bill Nelson is still in Washington, still collecting a paycheck,” the narrator intones.

“And besides reading speeches, what has Nelson done all those years? 349 times, he’s voted for higher taxes. Isn’t a half century in Washington enough?”

The ad will air statewide, with $2.7 million behind the buy.

Scott has already spent $17 million on anti-Nelson ads this cycle.

Special election looms to replace Doyle Carter on Jacksonville City Council

On Tuesday evening, the Jacksonville City Council approved via 2018-403 an August special election to replace Councilman Doyle Carter.

Carter, a termed-out Republican representing Jacksonville’s Westside, is one of three Republicans chasing the Duval County Tax Collector vacancy.

Since 2017, one candidate has been filed to replace Carter: Republican Randy White.

White — a former Jacksonville Association of Firefighters union head, and a retired deputy fire chief — has “the fire in the belly to serve,” he told Florida Politics last year.

White’s priorities as a candidate include public safety on the macro level, and on the district level, he wants to actualize the still mostly untapped potential of the Cecil Commerce Center (formerly Cecil Field).

Carter backs him, and so do many of the city’s power brokers.

White has $85,000 in the bank, positioning him well for an accelerated election that sees qualifying wrap up by the end of June.

If White somehow does draw opponents — and does not draw more than 50 percent of the vote — the runoff election would be on the November ballot.

Carter is leaving Council at a time when the body is already short-handed.

On June 1, Gov. Rick Scott suspended two Democratic Jacksonville City Council members who face 38 federal counts in a scheme to defraud local and federal taxpayers.

Because the Democrats are not resigning, Scott will pick replacements for the currently suspended Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown.

Gov. Scott mulls a long list of potential temporary replacements for the suspended duo.

The list as of the end of last weekJoseph WillisDarrin WilliamsTerrance 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 and Pat Lockett-Felder.

New additions emerged this week: former District 8 candidate James Breaker, former at-large candidate Mincy Pollock, along with political neophytes Leslie HarrisJames GreinerBarney Spann, and Nancy Walker.

Many of the candidates who filed last week, like Breaker and Pollock, have run for office before.

Priestly-Jackson was a former School Board chair. Pittman: a former 2015 Council candidate for an at-large seat. Holly: a current candidate in District 8. Mills: a past and present candidate in District 10.

Fields was a former state Representative and a 2015 City Council candidate. Nixon: a well-known political operative for Democratic candidates. Johnson: a former Soil and Water board member.

Brisbane: an operative/consultant. Brunson and Graham: former candidates for Council. Monroe: current candidate for Council in District 10.

Lockett-Felder, like Breaker, lost to Katrina Brown in District 8’s 2015 race.

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