A.G. Gancarski – Page 5 – Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

Duval House members had their reasons for opposing gun, school safety bill

Wednesday saw HB 7026 pass the Florida House by a 67-50 margin.

The $400 million gun and school safety proposal will fund demolition of a building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 14 students and three teachers were gunned down on Valentine’s Day. It also includes gun-control provisions banning the sale of bump stocks and raising the legal age to buy an assault rifle from 18 to 21.

The bill passed in spite of a lack of support from the Duval delegation; in fact, only Rep. Kim Daniels, a Democrat, voted for the measure.

Meanwhile, Democrat Tracie Davis opposed the bill, as did Republicans Cord ByrdClay YarboroughJay Fant, and Jason Fischer.

Davis opposed the bill for different reasons than the Republicans.

“Each and every day, black and brown boys and girls face the threat of gun violence whenever they leave their homes,” Davis said.

“This issue affects our communities in a way that some in this chamber will never understand,” she added, “while we are having this debate, I ask that we keep their lives in mind, their futures in mind, their dreams in mind, because too often, this Legislature has not.”

The Republican opposition to the bill was rooted in what legislators saw as abrogations of constitutional rights.

Byrd, an attorney with a deep interest in gun issues, asserted that he “could not vote for legislation that has serious constitutional infirmities infringing upon the Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.”

“The gun control measures in SB 7026 would not have prevented the Parkland tragedy. The desire to ‘do something’ cannot serve as the rationale to infringe upon the rights of law-abiding 18-20-year-olds,” Byrd asserted, adding that he backs the extra funding “to improve our mental health system, harden our schools and increase the presence of school resource officers.”

Yarborough “could not support it because concerns in the legislation outweigh what is good about it,” he said, though like Byrd he will be “voting in favor of our budget as it will contain funding for school security measures as well as mental health provisions that I hope will stop the next person who wants to terrorize our schools.”

Fant, running as the most Second Amendment-friendly candidate in the Attorney General race, likewise was a hard no: “We can protect our students without taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens. ‬When I’m AG, I won’t make ‘judgement calls’ on your Constitutional rights – I’ll defend and protect them in every scenario.”‬

Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Renner of Palm Coast — a legislator with deep Duval ties, who lost a primary to Fant by just two votes in 2014 — went with Speaker Richard Corcoran and voted for the bill.

“This bill represents a bipartisan effort that focuses on bolstering school safety, increasing funding for mental health, and denying dangerous individuals the means to harm others. Public safety is government’s first priority. The Florida Legislature delivered on thoughtful and responsible reforms to promote public safety and ensure that the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will never happen again,” Renner asserted.

Material from Florida Politics’ James Rosica was used in this post.

Lenny Curry outlines second-term vision: Public safety, investments in all of Jacksonville feature

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has been an active candidate for re-election since Wednesday; on Thursday, he discussed why he’s going for four more years.

One reason he offered: “to keep fighting for things I told people I’d fight for,” including public safety, resources for children, and a tangible commitment to all of Jacksonville.

Curry stresses that commitment to historically underserved areas, such as the Eastside and the Northwest Quadrant, has been something he has sought to remedy since his first campaign.

“A lot of broken promises” was how Curry described the approach of many of his predecessors. “Truly over the years there hasn’t been attention … equitable investments for the entire city.”

Curry has learned these lessons experientially, via getting “out of the offices and into neighborhoods,” he said, where “good people” are dealing with tough circumstances, all the while “working their asses off for their families … scraping and scrapping.”

Indeed, this battle for the forgotten neighborhoods of Jacksonville, and the men and women in them, animates Curry.

“I have met too many families that want the best for their children,” and right now, Curry says, “there’s no way. It makes me emotional, frustrated.”

“I promised action, to get things done,” he said.

And yet, there is work to do.

An ad a political committee associated with him (“Jacksonville on the Rise“) put out this week touts investments in public safety, and investments in children’s programs; however, the city is still plagued by a rising murder rate.

“I’m not satisfied,” Curry said, “but the only way you get better is to take action. We’ve added police, reformed kids’ programs, and are going to continue to take action.”

The murder rate, particularly among children, troubles Curry the most. He said that if he could accomplish any single goal, it would be that there would “not be another single child injured or killed by violence.”

There is a lot of work to do to get there, of course.

Beyond the public safety question, Curry recognizes that there are many other things left for him to do.

“Running government isn’t a glamorous business,” Curry said, “but it’s a necessary one.”

And one with many components.

Curry, throughout the interview, set himself apart from certain other elected officials who offer “grand plans” without a way to fulfill them, and just “spew talking points.”

Among his goals: to “protect taxpayer assets” and to “do for taxpayers what we set out to do.”

Sometimes, he allowed, there can be risk involved, as with the current discussion of JEA valuation.

“Anytime you take action,” Curry said, “there are people who are going to criticize.”

That’s not new to him: he saw similar dynamics in both the pension reform push (“a risk I was willing to carry”) and the children’s program reforms via the Kids Hope Alliance (“a risk that was worth it.”)

In the case of JEA, Curry believes it “would be irresponsible for elected officials not to understand the value of [that] asset,” especially given that it has “nearly doubled in value” in recent years.

“Many elected officials are afraid to have real conversations with people,” Curry said.

He’s not one of them.

“I have no desire to be a career politician,” Curry said, and that frees him up for “adult conversations” about how the city should look at both assets and liabilities.

Curry, a former chair of the Republican Party of Florida, has been able to build a bridge to Tallahassee; at this writing, it’s looking very possible that the city may get $12.5 million from the state for its Talleyrand Connector project.

Curry attributes the city’s increased ability to argue for its priorities in the state capital to relationships, including Senate budget chief Rob Bradley, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Rep. Travis Cummings.

“Without their belief in what we’re doing in this city,” Curry said, such meaningful investments wouldn’t be possible.

Curry is ramping up a re-election campaign much earlier than his immediate predecessor did, and well before real opposition emerges.

It is possible that potential opponents missed their window.

Curry, cognizant of the reality that messaging is perpetual for an office holder, is already making the affirmative case for his re-election.

Lenny Curry ad touts first-term accomplishments

Jacksonville on the Rise, a new local political committee designed to boost Mayor Lenny Curry‘s re-election bid, released its first ad this week: a six-figure buy.

As one would expect, the ad extols Curry’s first term accomplishments, framing them in a holistic, big picture narrative that makes the case that the mayor has kept the city safe and has instituted meaningful reforms.

The ad trumpets investments in technology, such as ShotSpotter as well as the addition of 180 positions to the Sheriff’s office and 225 fire and rescue workers, a fulfillment of a campaign promise to remedy public safety staffing shortages.

Additionally, the spot mentions children’s program reforms, via Kids Hope Alliance: “a partnership with teachers and community leaders who help our children see their dreams become reality.”

The ad also discusses “balancing the budget without raising taxes  … increased transparency … and accountability” to taxpayers.

Toward the close, the spot describes the city’s reaction to the hurricanes that came through in back to back years.

“We came together as a city,” Curry says in the voice-over.

With no serious opponents yet declared (one filed Democrat raised just $600), the spot is a clear message to potential opponents, establishing a narrative that could be both difficult and expensive to counter.

Audrey Gibson primary challenger Reggie Brown raises no February money

Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown, who is primarying State Sen. Audrey Gibson on the grounds that she’s not bringing enough money back home, failed to impress in his first finance report in February.

Brown filed a waiver, a move that won’t resolve concerns about the uphill climb that he will have in challenging the Senate Minority Leader Designate.

With the Legislative Session poised to end in the coming days, one might have thought that Brown needed to make his mark in February, a month in which Gibson would not be able to fundraise.

However, that didn’t happen.

Gibson has $121,410 on hand, and reasonable expectations are that she will burnish that figure going forward.

Joseph Hogan becomes third Republican in HD 15 race

The race to succeed outgoing Rep. Jay Fant, an Attorney General hopeful, in Jacksonville’s House District 15 got more crowded on the Republican side Wednesday.

Joseph Hogan, the son of Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan, entered the GOP scrum.

Hogan will face attorney Wyman Duggan and yacht broker Mark Zeigler in the primary.

Hogan made an audacious play during the Mayor’s race three years ago. He endorsed Democrat Alvin Brown over Republican Lenny Curry, crossing party lines despite what he called Brown’s “failed administration.”

“I didn’t make my decision lightly,” related Hogan in a series of text messages. “I plan to run for City Council one day, and I know that supporting Alvin could hurt me with the Party folk, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

“I don’t look forward to Lenny losing, but someone has to win, and I think the people of Jacksonville are better off with Mayor Alvin Brown,” Hogan added.

The seeds for that endorsement, Hogan related, were planted four years prior, in the aftermath of his father’s narrow defeat at the hands of the Brown operation, upon which Curry said that “excuses are for serial losers,” a shot across the bow of the Hogan campaign that Joe took personally.

Interestingly, Hogan filed for the race just hours after Curry filed to run again for Mayor.

Curry’s chief political strategist, Tim Baker, is running the Wyman Duggan campaign, suggesting that there may be intrigue through August in this race.

St. Johns County Sheriff backs Jimmy Johns for Congress

St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns scored a significant endorsement Wednesday, from St. Johns Sheriff David Shoar, in the crowded GOP primary in Florida’s Sixth Congressional District.

Shoar cited Johns’ “track record of supporting our public safety officers. He has done so on the St. Johns County Commission and will do so in Washington.”

Shoar pivoted from that track record to asserting that Johns was “someone that understands what it takes to keep our country safe, not only at home but at our border.”

Johns said it was “always humbling when such a highly respected law enforcement officer steps up to endorse.”

Shoar, said Johns, “has been on the front lines and knows what it takes to keep us safe. I will rely on him and the public safety communities to make sure that the laws passed in Washington protect citizens against murderous foreign gangs and solving the nation’s opioid crisis. We need to listen to those tasked with protecting us for solutions to these issues.”

The GOP field in the district, one that runs from St. Johns County south to Volusia, has a number of candidates already, including former Ormond Beach state Rep. Fred Costello, businessman John Ward, and former Green Beret and current Fox News commentator Michael Waltz.

One of these Republicans will emerge from the primary to face likely Democratic nominee Ambassador Nancy Soderberg in the general election.

Jordan Davis’ parents back Alvin Brown for Congress

Alvin Brown was Jacksonville Mayor in 2012, when Jordan Davis was gunned down at a gas station on the Southside.

In the years since, Brown has demonstrated support and friendship to Davis’ parents, and that support was reciprocated, via an official endorsement for Congress Wednesday.

Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, offered a joint statement, one that invoked both the Parkland massacre and the National Rifle Association.

“Nearly six years ago, our 17-year-old son Jordan was gunned down at a gas station in Jacksonville for simply playing music too loudly. The recent tragedy in Parkland shows just how little progress we’ve made, and how much more we still have to do, to keep our communities and kids safe from gun violence. This issue is truly one of life or death, and the stakes are too high for more excuses from do-nothing lawmakers, with our children’s blood on their hands, who ignore what’s in their heart to focus on what’s in their pocket. They readily support ‘Stand Your Ground’ and side with the NRA. Alvin Brown is a dedicated public servant with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby, and we know he will help make our country a safer, better place. We are proud to support his campaign.”

Worth noting: Brown’s opponent in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, Al Lawson,  previously reported having taken NRA money last year. However, a staffer from his office asserted that was a clerical error.

“No parent should ever have to bury a child,” Brown asserted, “and it’s shameful that ‘leaders’ in Tallahassee and Washington refuse to protect their own constituents from gun violence. I am honored to receive Ron and Lucy’s support and fight alongside them for commonsense gun policies to ensure senseless deaths like Jordan’s never happen again. The preventable school shootings and continued violence on our streets must end before more of our children are killed going to school, getting gas or walking home. Enough is enough.”  

With Lawson poised to swing through Jacksonville for a couple of media events next week, and with the debate regarding school safety and gun control still going on in the House, it’s clear that with this endorsement and its framing, timing is everything.

Ron Salem clears $150K on hand in Jacksonville Council race

The money chase in the Jacksonville City Council at-large group 2 race continues to go Republican Ron Salem‘s way.

February saw Salem clear $150,000 cash on hand between hard money and lucre in his “Moving Jacksonville Forward” political committee.

Salem brought in $6,800 in new money to his campaign account in February, despite a $1,000 refund to Gate Petroleum.

The vast majority of the new money came from the energy sector and nursing home interests.

All told, Salem has over $143,500 on hand in his campaign account, and an additional $8,000 in his committee.

Salem is well ahead of his two opponents.

Former Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop has not filed February numbers yet but had just over $13,000 at the end of January.

And Democrat Darren Mason just launched his campaign in March.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry quietly launches re-election campaign

Except for a brief period of time when Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was discussed as a possible Chief Financial Officer appointment, there has been little doubt that he would run for re-election.

The first inkling of that effort’s branding emerged Wednesday morning, via a new cover photo on his campaign Facebook page.

The second, more definitive nugget: Curry filing for re-election Wednesday morning.

The third indication: a new political committee, Jacksonville On the Rise, that will launch a six-figure tv and digital ad campaign today.

As was the case during his original campaign, the logo incorporates a bridge motif; the message is minimalistic: “Our mayor.”

For those familiar with the “One City, One Jacksonville” slogan, it’s clear that Curry will run as a uniter, not a divider, in his re-election bid.

In stark contrast to Curry’s predecessor, Alvin Brown, Curry will not allow other candidates to get traction before launching his re-election campaign.

As this writer described in a Folio Weekly column last week, there have been whispers that Curry may be vulnerable as a candidate.

However, Curry will marshal massive resources, support from throughout the community, and a record of meaningful reforms into his re-election bid.

Additionally, he can count on the unstinting support of the Florida Times-Union editorial page … which wasn’t necessarily the case until the very end of 2015 bid.

Who will dare challenge him?

That is the question that thus far has no answer.

City Council President Anna Brosche was dismissive: “This is the most non-news news I can think of: someone going through the normal process of running for re-election. Mayor Curry is doing what he intended to do. Not sure what there is to comment on.”

Finance Chair Garrett Dennis is “glad that Mayor Curry is thinking and considering his next four years. It is no surprise that he is keeping all options about his future on the table.”

Lisa King, chair of the Duval Democratic Party, noted that “as Mayor Curry sets his eyes towards re-election, the citizens of Jacksonville are still waiting for him to come clean on the JEA sale.”

“Time will tell whether we’ll get the open government we were promised. Until then, the Curry machine will continue what it knows best, deflection and distraction. We hope the Mayor will remember that sunshine is the best disinfectant in government,” King added.

Florida Politics is reaching out to other council members for comment, and attempting to secure an interview with Curry today.

Jacksonville City Council to honor muckraker Marvin Edwards

Of all the journalists to work the Jacksonville market, none had a more enduring scope than recently departed Marvin Edwards.

Edwards, who passed away at 96 years old and wrote bristling exposes of municipal boondoggles almost until the end, was a columnist, an essayist, and a quote machine.

Consider these lines from a 2001 article in Florida Trend.

“This city will take a beating on the Super Bowl,” Edwards predicted. And after the national articles maligning the city’s lack of cabs and hotels and first-rate entertainment options, he was right.

“The No. 1 job of government is to serve the general public, not special interests,” Edwards said. “Jacksonville has a reputation of serving the special interests first. It’s worse now than ever.”

Spoiler alert: it never got better.

He called the donor class the “syndicate,” and it’s only for lack of gumption among his peers that phrase didn’t stick.

Edwards’ ultimate target, at least this century, was spending on the Jacksonville Jaguars; he maligned the lack of accountability in spending on matters ranging from bringing the team to Jacksonville to the aforementioned ill-fated Super Bowl.

“The city pledged some $3 million to the event, and ultimately spent $11 million. But despite requests from several local papers and auditors to the Jacksonville City Council for a detailed financial accounting, city officials and the committee refused to provide receipts, contracts or other documentation. Although the committee was subsidized with city funds, staffed with several city employees and tasked with providing a public function on behalf of the city both the city and the committee claimed the agency’s records were not public.”

He was a gadfly. A muckraker. And the kind of journalist that doesn’t exist in this market anymore.

Now that he has passed on, it’s safe for the Jacksonville City Council to admit that he was right all along.

Resolution 2018-138 will commemorate Edwards’ life and accomplishments.

Among them: his work for the Office of Strategic Services; coverage of the Dachau Concentration Camp trial; exposure of funding discrepancies in Duval County Schools that ultimately led to the district losing accreditation, followed by city/county consolidation.

“Marvin Edwards spent decades as a self-appointed watchdog and citizen activist holding local government accountable for its stewardship of the best interests of the taxpayers, meticulously researching and doggedly critiquing major public projects and expenditures such as the Dames Point Bridge and the Automated Skyway Express in newspaper articles, letters to the editor, and television interviews …

“Mr. Edwards exemplified involved, informed citizen activism, and his research and writing over many decades contributed greatly to government accountability in Jacksonville.”

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