A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 514

A.G. Gancarski

37 Congressional Black Caucus members endorse Al Lawson’s reelection, as Alvin Brown reels

On Tuesday, the majority of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus endorsed Rep. Al Lawson ahead of the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of so many of my colleagues in the CBC,” Lawson said. “They understand, as I do, the importance of fighting against some of the unfair policies of this current administration, protecting affordable health care for all Americans, protecting voting rights, ensuring access to a quality public education, and strengthening marginalized communities all across the nation.”

Alvin Brown, according to sources who saw him in D.C. last year, was making the rounds of CBC members with former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown to solicit support. The en masse endorsement of Lawson suggests that strategy failed. Brown got one CBC endorsement, from Missouri U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver.

Brown has pilloried Lawson as “Trump’s favorite Democrat,” painting him as out of step with the Democratic Party on a number of issues. The two have jousted throughout the campaign, exchanging jabs on everything from Lawson’s positions on “Stand Your Ground and ICE, to Brown’s closeness to Corrine Brown and his alleged “failure” as mayor.

Lawson’s endorsements include prominent names, some with connections to Brown’s political past. One such, CBC chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond is an especially notable endorsement given that Richmond campaigned for Alvin Brown in Jacksonville in 2015, when he lost his reelection bid for Mayor.

Another endorsement for Lawson that has to feel like a cruel cut: the backing of Brown’s former political mentor, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, whom Brown namechecked during a Monday evening forum in Jacksonville.

Another prominent name, Rep. Barbara Lee, is notable, and Brown also mentioned her during the forum.

Also on board: former chairman and current U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, who likewise came to Jacksonville at the behest of former Corrine Brown to stump for Alvin Brown in 2015.

Florida Democratic U.S. Reps. Val Demings and Frederica Wilson also were on the list, in addition to prominent national Democrats such as Reps. Keith Ellison, Hakeem Jeffries, Elijah Cummings and Marcia Fudge.

Frank White, Ashley Moody campaigns trade barbs

Tuesday has been an active day for those handling the messaging for Republican Attorney General candidates Ashley Moody and Frank White, with each campaign maintaining their opponents are dangerously liberal.

White’s campaign touted the most recent StPetePolls survey of the race in a “state of the race” memo, with selected quotes from our write-up.

“White’s lead is across the board … He holds at least a high single-digit lead among all age groups — young, middle-aged, boomers and seniors. Regionally, he trounces Moody from Pensacola to the I-4 corridor, with only West Palm Beach and Miami preferring Moody, and only by a slim margin at that.

“The Panhandle lawmaker also holds a massive lead in favorability. Among the 53 percent of Republicans who had an opinion on him, he scored a plus-31. Moody, by comparison, posted a middling plus-4 among a larger share of Republicans who were familiar enough with her to answer.”

Additionally, White’s campaign touted an ad (see below): “Over the weekend, the campaign also rotated in a new negative TV ad highlighting Ashley Moody’s lawsuit against President Donald Trump for ‘fraud’ and her ties to Hillary Clinton.”

The claims and counterclaims go both ways in this race, with Moody’s side releasing Tuesday two ads slamming White. The first of them (also seen below). spotlights her backing from sheriffs across the state.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd opens and closes the spot, which features quick cutaways of various sheriffs reading parts of the script.

“Defend our Constitution. Lock up criminals. That’s the job of our Attorney General,” the script begins.

“Politician Frank White … (a) car salesman turned politician … (has) never prosecuted a case,” the sheriffs continue.

White, according to the lawmen, is a mere “politician … lying about Moody’s record.”

Moody, meanwhile, is the “real conservative” in the race.

Appearing in the ad with Judd are the following sheriffs: Franklin County’s A.J. Smith; Seminole’s Dennis Lemma; Clay’s Darryl Daniels; Duval’s Mike Williams; Bradford’s Gordon Smith; Monroe’s Rick Ramsay; and Hardee’s Arnold Lanier.

White’s campaign noted that taxpayers footed some of the bill for the spot.

“Down and desperate, Moody is attacking Frank White as a ‘car salesman’ in her new attack ad, but no amount of personal attacks can erase Moody’s own record of suing Trump for fraud and her close ties to the Clintons. Now, she is also financing this attack campaign with over a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer money — even though her personal financial disclosure shows she is worth more than $3 million.”

Moody’s side offered up another opposition dump and ad Tuesday afternoon, asserting that White’s former law firm donated to “liberals, including former President Barack Obama and Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.”

“While linking a candidate to the political contributions of its past employer and co-workers could be viewed as tenuous, Frank White’s continued attacks on Ashley Moody for a law school internship with the American Bar Association make White’s association with the liberal law firm of Akin Gump and its attorneys a far stronger connection and therefore fair game,” the campaign asserted.

“Frank White is attacking former judge Ashley Moody for an internship while in law school while trying to hide the fact that his only time at a law firm was at one of the most liberal in the country. Once again, Frank White is playing fast and loose with the truth, and we agree with a majority of Florida Republican State Attorneys that he is ‘unfit to serve,’” said Nick Catroppo, campaign manager.

Fred Costello touts endorsements from Jose Oliva, Florida Family Action

The Florida House Speaker-designate and a prominent Christian conservative group on Tuesday endorsed Fred Costello to succeed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District.

Costello, a former state representative from Ormond Beach who has been a distant third in the money race with Ponte Vedra’s John Ward and St. Augustine Beach’s Mike Waltz, has predicated his bid on grassroots momentum and endorsements from those who know him best.

The announcements of backing from Rep. Jose Oliva and Florida Family Action speak to that strategy.

“Fred Costello represents the very best of our party and our ideology. It is my pleasure to endorse him for Congress,” Oliva said.

The media release from the Costello campaign, in mentioning the FFA endorsement, notes that “endorsement indicates a very high likelihood of confidence that this candidate will govern and vote as a conservative.”

The FFA endorsement is no surprise. FFA President John Stemberger endorsed Costello in January.

Costello has been widely endorsed, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Attorney General Pam Bondi backing him.

The National Rifle Association also had endorsed him, then rescinded backing after a disagreement over the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety bill’s banning of firearm purchases for those under 21 years of age, a provision that Costello supported and the NRA opposed.

With incumbent DeSantis running for Governor, the seat is open — and this will be an expensive race through November. Waltz and Ward, both heavily self-financed, had on hand over $616,000 and $467,000 respectively at the end of June.

Costello, while not on television and at a distinct disadvantage with just $51,308 on hand, nonetheless is competitive with the two first-time candidates, both new to the district, in at least one July poll.

Neither Ward nor Waltz seems especially concerned with Costello. However, Costello picks up 21.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters in CD 6; Ward gets 20.5 percent; Waltz has 20 percent.

It appears the winner of this three-way scrum is on track to face Ambassador Nancy Soderberg.

survey released last month from St. Pete Polls showed Soderberg up big, with her 30 percent support amounting to more than opponents Sevigny (10 percent) and John Upchurch (13 percent) had combined.

Soderberg is well-positioned to make her case with undecided voters, with nearly $1.5 million in total fundraising since she entered the race and $981,790 cash on hand as of the end of June.

Soderberg has a national network of support that appears especially formidable, including backing from former Vice President Joe Biden, that suggests that a race against her will be nationalized.

As other counties move forward, Duval County leaves Airbnb money on the table

A July report from the Jacksonville City Council auditor says Duval County is leaving $366,000 per year on the table when it comes to the so-called bed tax.

One source of a revenue increase could be Airbnb. Unlike 39 other Florida counties, Airbnb does not pay this tax — six cents per dollar — to the county.

Of the $23 million collected in bed taxes in FY 16/17, zero came from Airbnb. That compares unfavorably to Sarasota, for example, which collected over $500,000 of its $21 million tourist tax from the company.

“Airbnb estimated that there were 42,600 guest arrivals in Duval County, which resulted in total income of $6.1 million for the hosts in 2017. If the $6.1 million amount were accurate and assuming no owner directly submitted taxes, the City would have failed to collect $366,000 in Tourist Development and Convention Development Taxes just from Airbnb in calendar year 2017 alone,” the audit asserts.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa asserted in his response that the City Council needs to fix the problem, but the fix would present challenges.

“This matter not only includes collection of tourist development tax funds but will also entail significant zoning code changes to allow Airbnb and other similar entities to operate in the County,” Mousa asserted.

Tuesday, the Council’s Finance Committee and Mousa discussed the matter further, with the gaps in zoning and legality presenting challenges for the body, and a seeming conflict with the desires of the Mayor’s Office.

Complicating matters further and spotlighting room for improvement: the locals’ inability to handle forging a mutually beneficial agreement with the company, something other local governments managed years ago.

Former Council President Lori Boyer noted that during her term, counties were forging agreements with Airbnb. However, Duval had a sticking point, Boyer claimed: “At the time, Airbnb was requesting that we relinquish any past wrongdoing. There was some issue on that statewide.”

Another sticking point: the company’s refusal to allow Duval’s tax collector to audit them, according to Boyer.

Airbnb, however, maintains that such assertions are “100 percent untrue.”

Miami-Dade, Orange, Pinellas, Hillsborough, and other counties, Airbnb public affairs manager Ben Breit said,have audited “very easily,” with Pinellas having audited for years. As well, Miami-Dade’s agreement includes “the right to pursue hosts for back taxes if they wish.”

If Boyer knew these mechanisms were working well elsewhere, she didn’t say. Rather, Boyer said these issues, coupled with a municipal zoning code that distinguishes between single-family homes and transient dwellings. stalled the process.

The Tourist Development Commission, which meets Thursday, will discuss a way forward. Additionally, Boyer noted that current Council President Aaron Bowman wants a solution to the issue.

However, finding a solution won’t be so easy, said Mousa, who notes that the arrangement is fundamentally illegal in Jacksonville.

Mousa is “reluctant to chase tourist development taxes” of “rentals in violation of ordinance code.”

To “chase the tax,” Mousa said, is to “validate their existence … like going to the corner to the guy selling marijuana and asking where’s my sales tax.”

Mousa did not elaborate on where such corners may be.

Despite Mousa’s position, some committee members note that Airbnb and other such rentals aren’t going away, and that maybe the city should move forward.

“Maybe it would be better to forgive them and collect the money,” said Jim Love, calling the matter a “sticky wicket” in his district, which includes touristy areas in Riverside and Avondale.

The city has a similar stalemate on vehicles for hire that has lasted years, through a fragmented special committee paralyzed into inertia by competing advocates for Uber/Lyft and traditional cabs.

The city continues to suspend medallion fees for vehicles, and suffers fiscal loss, according to the bill summary for the latest extension of the medallion-fee moratorium: “Revenue loss from medallion renewals payments and late fees; when the moratorium was enacted in December 2015 there were 1,146 vehicle-for-hire medallions renewable at a cost of $100 per year; the late renewal fee is $10 per month after the deadline.”

The math on that, just as is the case with Airbnb collections, runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And there is no legislative fix in sight for either issue.

Forgotten about for 34 years, Michael Jackson’s money will fund Jacksonville music scholarships

In 1984, there was no bigger star in the world than Michael Jackson. With the songs from 1982’s Thriller still resonating on the charts, he and his brothers thought the time was right for a family Victory tour.

That tour came to Jacksonville: a three-night Gator Bowl stint in a metropolitan area much less populous than it is today, with $30 tickets a measure of what a hot gig it was.

The concert was out of Jacksonville’s league, but proving that some things never change, the city spent $275,000 to make the gig happen.

That era is long gone now. The King of Pop has passed on. Yet, in a strange twist of fate, a small piece of his legacy will remain, to impact Jacksonville youth with musical aptitude.

Per Jacksonville Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa, Jackson “gifted the City $100,000 for music scholarships to deserving Duval County students seriously interested in and actively pursuing the study of music. The funds were placed in a City of Jacksonville Trust Fund; however, only the interest earnings therefrom may be spent on scholarships.”

“To the best of my knowledge and research,” Mousa asserted in an email last week, “no scholarships have been provided from the trust fund.”

The fund has earned, per Mousa, $73,600 in interest. And while the $173,600 must remain in the fund, the city can use an anticipated $5,500 of projected interest this next fiscal year for scholarships, which will be administered via the Kids Hope Alliance, Mayor Lenny Curry‘s reformed structure for children’s programs that budgets at $41 million this year.

Alvin Brown, Al Lawson deliver tepid performances in Jax AME forum

Just hours after U.S. Rep. Al Lawson and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown threw elbows in a meeting with the Florida Times-Union editorial board, the two Democrats made their respective cases at a Jacksonville AME political forum.

The two have jousted throughout the campaign, exchanging jabs on everything from Lawson’s positions on Stand Your Ground and ICE, and Brown’s closeness to Corrine Brown and his alleged “failure” as mayor.

After the two sat patiently through almost two hours of forums for school board and tax collector candidates, they finally got mike time (along with Republican Virginia Fuller, who is the party’s nominee by default) as the 9 p.m hour approached.

Spoiler alert: whatever fire and brimstone the two Dems had was, for reasons only known to them, left outside the doors of the Westside Jacksonville church.

Judging from the mailed-in performances, it may have been past all of their bedtimes. There was no new ground in answers. No new attacks. Just sedentary pantomimes of the kind of fiery oratory seen more often in these candidates’ press releases than their live deliveries.

Lawson, when asked about affordable housing, noted that Eureka Gardens (across the street from the forum) looked like something out of a “third world country” — a tacit jab at former Mayor Brown.

“There has not been much done by the city the last several years to make a change at Eureka Gardens,” Lawson said.

Brown didn’t take Lawson’s bait, instead talking about “mixed-use” housing proposals that would attract teachers or cops to live in the inner city, with the government paying half the cost of a house for these public service professions.

Brown, when asked what he would do about Medicare’s impending insolvency, noted he supports “healthcare for all” and spotlighted his work as mayor enrolling people in the Affordable Care Act.

Lawson vowed that “we’re not going to let Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security run out,” though as was the case with Brown, there was no real solution advanced for American entitlements hurtling over a fiscal cliff in the coming years.

Guns were next.

Lawson trotted out his now-familiar line that people don’t need assault rifles to hunt rabbits. Brown committed to “common sense gun reform,” including an assault weapon ban and ban on taking money from the NRA.

Pivoting to Stand Your Ground, Brown called for repeal — though he did not mention a familiar campaign talking point that Lawson voted for it when in Tallahassee.

Pressed for his biggest accomplishment and regret in Congress, Lawson noted his work for food relief after Hurricane Irma as an accomplishment. No regrets were enumerated. Lawson also noted his work to bring a veterans’ hospital to Jacksonville.

The same question went to Brown as Mayor. Brown took the opportunity to credit himself for job creation (36,000 new jobs) and “supporting our veterans,” as well as educational reforms such as the Learn2Earn program.

Lawson went on to note his record representing populations throughout North Florida.

“I know I have the energy, the ability to represent this area quite well,” Lawson said. “I have a record.”

Fuller, curiously, knocked her opponents for getting funding from Republican donors. By contrast, she is not getting funding from anyone, she said.

Brown, meanwhile, said he had the best “vision” to represent the region, with proposals for a “living wage — fifteen cents an hour.”

He corrected himself.

“Fifteen dollars an hour,” he said.


With time running short in campaign, Adam Putnam bivouacs in Jacksonville

With three weeks until Election Day, and polls showing him behind as absentee ballots are cast, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is investing some time this week in the Jacksonville market.

On Monday evening, Putnam gripped and grinned at Grape and Grain in San Marco, at a “Conservatives and Cocktails” bash/straw poll event held by the Jacksonville Young Republicans.

Putnam has had strong local support in Jacksonville, and the event felt like a homecoming — the room, full of politicians, would be politicians, and the operatives of the past, present, and future — was an establishment Republican through and through.

If one didn’t know it was August, they might recall the balm of a June HQ opening saw U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, and Jacksonville City Council President-designate Aaron Bowman.

As a measure of changing times in the race, Putnam was buoyed by a 17 point lead in a Florida Chamber poll, and was “very pleased” with the campaign’s progress.

However, a lot has happened since the spring. For starters, Pres. Donald Trump has stumped for Putnam’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. And polls have flipped, to the point where certain pundits are discussing whether or not Putnam should drop out now.

Putnam, who was feisty during his remarks to the crowd, including asking them if they wanted a “Floridian” representing them, definitely is not leaving the race.

We asked him about the Trump/DeSantis rally, and Putnam was terse, saying he was “glad [he] was embracing my workforce development plan.”

When we asked Putnam if he expected to be mentioned from the stage, which didn’t happen, Putnam said he “didn’t give the matter much thought.”

Putnam did well Monday night, but most voters won’t see that. What will be seen: both he and DeSantis get another major opportunity to connect with Jacksonville voters, as they co-appear on a debate stage Wednesday night.

The 8 p.m. debate will be televised locally on WJXT, the only televised debate between the two candidates not hosted by Fox News.

For Putnam, Wednesday night may be the best, even only, opportunity to establish why it is important that he “knows Florida best.”

Some factors mitigate in Putnam’s favor: Moderator Kent Justice tends to have a cool style, avoiding pyrotechnics and confrontation with subjects in the manner of a Chuck Todd. Justice’s Sunday show tends to be the only mandatory stopover for statewide candidates as they swing through Northeast Florida for fundraisers or whatnot.

However, DeSantis has, in Jacksonville, a certain home-field advantage. His Congressional district extends to just miles from the southern parts of Duval County. And his wife Casey Black DeSantis has been a mainstay on Jacksonville television, including on WJXT itself for years.

Starpower: Luther ‘Uncle Luke’ Campbell drops radio spot for Philip Levine

Luther Campbell’s South Florida hip-hop act 2 Live Crew was an essential part of many Florida childhoods and adolescences in the 1980s and 1980s, parental advisory stickers not withstanding.

Campbell has matured since those days, and has become a perceptive political commentator. And now, a statewide endorser.

In a new radio spot called “Badass Governor,” the Miami legend lays out the case for former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine to take the Democratic nomination this month.

“You want to stop guns and gun violence in our community? It’s Philip Levine. As Mayor, he reformed an entire police department, stopping the unnecessary harassment and targeting of our people. You want better paying jobs? It’s Philip Levine, who passed Florida’s first living wage. You want to stick it to Donald Trump? It’s Philip Levine, who’s been putting it to Donald Trump time and time again,” Campbell asserts.

“Look—the system has never been our friend and those who run it make damn sure of that. Elect Philip Levine as Governor and we run the show. Take it from yours truly, Uncle Luke—Philip Levine is one badass dude and is gonna make one badass Governor,” said Campbell added.

Campbell had already endorsed Levine in his Miami New Times column in July.

Levine’s Senior Advisor Christian Ulvert said, “Mayor Levine is the only candidate with a clear record of results on the issues important to the people of Florida—his commitment to action should be a call to action for everyone to get out and vote in the primary on August 28th. This election is critical to the future of our communities, and Mayor Levine is the candidate who can win in November and make sure Florida stands up to Donald Trump’s divisive agenda.”

In a primary where Andrew Gillum is using Migos quotes on billboards, it seems that Levine has held his own, at least this newscycle, with a true legend of hip-hop and the Miami sound backing him.

Accepting teacher endorsements, Alvin Brown decries charter schools … but takes Gary Chartrand’s money

Alvin Brown, challenging U.S. Rep. Al Lawson in the Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District, scored some key endorsements from The Florida Education Association and Duval Teachers United Monday.

Interestingly, Brown spotlighted a different position on one key issue than Lawson in accepting the endorsements.

“Unfortunately,” Brown said, “there’s a long-running trend toward giving for-profit charter school operators greater influence in the state’s public education system. Unlike my opponent who’s put Florida’s children at risk with his reckless support for school vouchers, I firmly believe that taxpayers should not be rewarding for-profit companies at the expense of underfunded public schools.”

Brown, however, has gotten money from the most prominent of those “for-profit charter school operators,” part of a steady stream of Republican donations.

Gary Chartrand has led a list of Republican donors to Brown’s campaign, a list including Jacksonville lobbyist Marty FiorentinoPreston Haskell, former Republican Jacksonville City Councilman Stephen Yoost, former CSX President Michael Ward, current Jaguars owner Shad Khan, and former Jaguars’ owner Wayne Weaver.

The blast at charter schools, while useful fodder for a Democratic primary debate, is belied by Brown taking charter school money — and served as a distraction from what otherwise would be the standard endorsement email, with anodyne quotes such as these below.

“The Florida Education Association is proud to endorse Alvin Brown for Florida’s 5th District because he understands that the road to economic prosperity begins with our public schools,” FEA President Joanne McCall said Monday.

“In Congress,” McCall added, “Mayor Brown will be a strong voice for educators. He knows that our students are more than just a test score, that schools need adequate resources and that we must pay teachers and education staff professionals what they deserve. As a staunch advocate for Florida working families, Mayor Brown will fight for an economy that works for all — not just a privileged few.”

The local teachers union was somewhat more specific in its advocacy for Alvin Brown.

Duval Teachers United President Terrie Brady said, “Alvin Brown shares our values and vision of a Florida in which all of our children can receive a quality education regardless of zip code. Having seen his dedication to Jacksonville families firsthand, I know Alvin will work hard on behalf of all Florida students and our educators in Congress. He’s a true friend of public education who has innovated locally to position our children for success with programs such as ‘Mayor’s Mentors’ and ‘Learn2Earn.’ Duval Teachers United proudly stands with Mayor Brown because he stands with us.”

Neither group forced Brown to hammer his opponent on charter schools. That was his own decision.

Brown, billing himself as a “pragmatic progressive” these days, has evolved from his previous “conservative Democrat persona.” That evolution, at least when it comes to the gap between donor relationships and rhetoric for the voting public, is still in progress.

‘Tough cookie’: Ron DeSantis reminds Florida voters who Donald Trump backs for governor

An ad released Monday by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican candidate for governor, reminds Florida voters of the central distinction between him and opponent Adam Putnam.

Namely, the President backs DeSantis.

The 30 second spot begins with stentorian music, and Trump enumerating DeSantis’ virtues: “A true leader, a proud veteran, a tough, brilliant cookie … Ron DeSantis.”

Using what appears to be artificially-sweetened audience noises, the crowd’s rapture continues without interruption as DeSantis vows to “make our state without fear” by vowing to continue “conservative policies,” which include “get[ting] the Constitution back in our classrooms.” fighting illegal immigration, enacting e-Verify, and stopping “sanctuary cities.”

One of those has already been accomplished: there are no sanctuary cities in the state.

“Everybody needs to support Ron DeSantis,” Trump says, closing the ad.

With a debate against Putnam two days away — the last debate between the candidates before the Aug. 28 primary — the knock on DeSantis has been that he hasn’t demonstrated a real interest in Florida issues.

The Tampa Bay Times, in its endorsement, chided Trump’s candidate: “DeSantis shows little understanding of state policy or of the challenges facing this state, and Florida Republicans should look beyond the president’s tweets as they choose between the familiar conservative and the newest flavor of firebrand.”

What’s clear, however, is that in survey after survey, the Trump/DeSantis appeal overwhelms the chiding of center-left opinion pages. And the DeSantis campaign is closing out as it opened — betting on Trump in the primary, with a strategy evolution during the general.

DeSantis played up the Trump connection in an ad with wife Casey DeSantis last week, teaching one child to build a wall and another to read off of Trump signs.

That ad went viral, with much of the media elite panning it as they gave it free coverage.

The hope from the DeSantis camp is this one does likewise.

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