A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 514

A.G. Gancarski

JEA ‘no-sale’ bill appears to be ‘black flag dead’ in Jacksonville City Council

It is rare that a Jacksonville City Council resolution gets four committee stops, but such is the case with 2018-429, a resolution of disinclination to sell local publicly owned utility JEA.

It is even rarer that a bill can’t get a second to move into consideration.

That was the case in Monday’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee, where the bill could not get a second, and the committee moved to withdraw the bill over the objections of the sponsor.

The final report from the Jacksonville City Council special committee on the future of JEA revealed a consensus to keep the utility local and publicly owned, which seemingly would bode well for the legislation.

However, that wasn’t the case.

Bill sponsor Garrett Dennis, who expended a lot of political capital last year trying to stop what he saw as machinations to sell the utility, asserted late last week his belief that the four committee gauntlet is an attempt to kill the bill.

“Council President (Aaron) Bowman has shown an interest in carrying out this administration’s orders,” Dennis said, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is trying to kill the bill.”

Bowman denied that claim when asked.

“It’s time for my colleagues to make a decision. They need to get a backbone and stand up for what is best for our city and not for what Lenny Curry and his cronies want,” Dennis, who is on just one committee currently, said.

As it turned out, committee members asserted they had made their position clear.

Councilman Tommy Hazouri, a Democrat like Dennis, wondered “how many times we have to do a black flag dead on this issue,” given the JEA Special Committee made that statement.

“I’m not here to watch us get embarrassed. You’ve continued to do this on every issue, to go against the mayor. We have spoken,” Hazouri said, proclaiming the bill meaningless.

Committee chairman Sam Newby wondered “why we bring this back up again. It’s a dead issue,” then motioned to withdraw the bill.

Dennis protested the withdrawal motion, but the other four committee members overruled him.

The bill has three more committee stops, and Dennis is on none of those committees, meaning there is a good chance the bill never gets taken up.

Jacksonville City Council panel approves cannabis code change

Ordinance 2018-75, which would revise existing medical cannabis regulations, moved out of its first of two Jacksonville City Council committees Monday.

The code was first formulated in response to “Charlotte’s Web” low-THC cannabis being the single legal strain, and after an extended period of debate, processing and dispensing were allowed in commercial districts, with cultivation permitted in agricultural zones.

This legislation was moved Monday in the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety committee, after deferrals in the spring.

The ordinance would allow dispensaries anywhere in the city, including within 500 feet of a school if the applicant could prove a compelling interest in public safety, health and welfare.

Council would have to consider those waiver requests, which would include a survey of schools similar to that required for obtaining a new liquor licenses under similar circumstances.

However, at least in its current version, churches would not be consulted.

Land Use and Zoning will consider the bill Tuesday evening, its last stop before the Council floor next week.

Rob Bradley, Travis Hutson committees spending big to keep Senate red

Two powerful Northeast Florida Senators, Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley and Regulated Industries Chair Travis Hutson, spent big in late July as part of an effort to maintain the Republican majority in the chamber.

On July 25, Bradley’s “Working for Florida’s Families” committee moved $150,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the vast majority of the committee’s spend in the week between July 21 and 27.

Much of that spend was defrayed with $70,000 worth of contributions from six groups, including the Florida Medical Association PAC and Florida Power & Light.

Bradley’s committee has nearly $800,000 on hand, suggesting a flexibility for further support to the FRSCC or other friendly interests down the stretch.

Hutson’s First Coast Business Foundation committee also ponied up $50,000 on July 27.

Hutson’s two committees, FCBF and Sunshine State Conservatives, have between them $371,761. Hutson also has another $67,000 in his 2020 campaign account.

Hutson is vying for Senate leadership in 2022, and it is logical to expect him to continue moving money through committees to that end.

Philip Levine spotlights opposition to NRA, Donald Trump in latest TV spot

In an ad released Friday, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine spotlighed his willingness to take on President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association.

The script juxtaposes Trump’s fealty to the gun lobby with Levine’s willingness to stand as opposition. The ad comes a day after the final Democratic gubernatorial debate, which saw Levine and opponent Jeff Greene exchange a brief flurry of jabs regarding the latter’s encounters with Trump.

“Despite the shooting deaths of 17 people in Parkland, despite the pleas of parents, Donald Trump promised the NRA he’s with them all the way. Philip Levine felt that we had to stop the violence now, demanding Florida pass the toughest gun safety laws in the nation. As Governor and as a parent, Philip Levine will take on the NRA, or anyone who stands in our way,” the ad says.

“As Donald Trump hand-picks Rick Scott’s successor for Governor, the state of Florida needs a leader with a proven record of fighting back and standing up when it counts. We cannot let Trump and the NRA rule our state—we can’t stand by while our state’s gun laws remain some of the loosest in the nation,” emphasizes Levine’s senior adviser, Christian Ulvert.

“As a proud Moms Demand Action Gun-Sense Candidate, who received an F-grade from the NRA, and the only candidate for Governor who fought to ban assault rifles while in office, Philip Levine is the fighter we need to pass the toughest gun reform in the nation. He’s the candidate who does more than talk, he has a record of action that speaks for itself,” Ulvert added.

Left unsaid: how Levine would get that gun reform through a predominately Republican Legislature.

Levine has often touted his record passing reforms that play well with Democratic voters as Miami Beach Mayor, from minimum wage hikes to efforts to combat the effects of climate change. Many of those accomplishments were only paper victories, however, thanks to state laws preempting local government ordinances.

Since he officially entered the race in November, Levine has poured nearly $15 million from his personal fortune into his campaign and political committee, All About Florida. Those cash infusions have kept him on the airwaves throughout most of the campaign cycle and even led to him becoming the front runner in most polls of the primary race until a couple of months back.

The most recent St. Pete Polls survey shows Gwen Graham ahead, with 29 percent support. Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire who is also self-funding his campaign, was in second with 23 percent, followed by Levine at 19 percent and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Orlando-area businessman Chris King bringing up the rear.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Audrey Gibson wants ‘Stand Your Ground’ special session

Senate Minority Leader-designate Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, submitted her petition to call the Legislature into special session to address problems with the “Stand Your Ground” law.

“Today I signed a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner to poll members of the Legislature for a special session to amend or repeal the ‘Stand Your Ground’ provisions in Chapter 776, Florida Statutes,” Gibson asserted.

“I signed the letter because a little boy watched his father be shot, and then die, after defending his mother from an irate man. The current statute has enabled murderous behavior, subjective interpretation, and questionable application by a sheriff, allowing an individual to potentially exact another murder in the same fashion as he roams free,” Gibson added.

“This presents a public safety hazard and is counter to the protections that should be afforded to all Floridians. While the Governor has the power to act through a Declaration of a State of Emergency in matters of public safety, his silence on Markeis McGlockton’s murder is clear indication that he is ignoring public safety and will do nothing.”

McGlockton was shot and killed by Michael Drejka on July 19 after a dispute over a parking space at a convenience store in Pinellas County got physical.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Drejka’s response to the altercation conformed with his read of the stand your ground statute: “I’m not saying I agree with it. I don’t make the law. I enforce the law. Others can have the debate if it is right or not.”

On Wednesday, Gualtieri turned the investigation over to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to charge Drejka, refer the case to a grand jury or close the case with no charges.

As to Gibson’s point regarding the Governor’s lack of direction, the Governor had this to say last month: “The case that just happened in the St. Pete area, you feel so sorry for the family. You hate anything like that happening. I know that the Sheriff is going to look into that. And ultimately, the State Attorney will make a decision on that,” Scott said, blending the emotional appeal with a disclaiming of responsibility.

“We’re at a 47 year-low in our crime rate. I think when you know what happens in the state, I think the state is very responsive, as anything happens, I think we have — I’ll try to do everything I can to be responsive to always try and improve what happens. We are at a 47 year-low in our crime rate. But you hate anything like this happening,” Scott said.

Notable: Scott’s reaction matched his take on a similar SYG case six years ago, when Trayvon Martin was killed.

Sixty percent of legislators in the House and the Senate would have to agree to a special session, a heavy lift in the height of election season.

Momentum, as the Florida Phoenix noted, is coming from the Democrats exclusively.

Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon, incoming House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee, Miami Beach Rep. David Richardson and St. Petersburg state Sen. Darryl Rouson have all called for a special session.

Without Republicans on board, the gambit likely will fail.

Lester Bass appointment to 4th circuit court still in flux after Supreme Court stay

Hours after the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Gov. Rick Scott in his desire to appoint the successor for Judge Robert Foster, the Governor announced last week that Duval County Judge Lester Bass would be his pick if the Florida Supreme Court doesn’t overrule the appeal.

On Friday, Jacksonville lawyer David Trotti, who had appealed the district court’s rulingto the Supreme Court, was granted a stay, with a new Wednesday deadline for an answer brief on jurisdiction.

At issue: Trotti filing to run for the seat before the qualifying deadline, a decision challenged by the Scott side. If the election were re-opened, Trotti’s “election” would be unopposed.

The selection of  Bass, meanwhile, was lauded throughout Jacksonville and beyond.

His resume includes being a Duval County judge, 11 years as a General Magistrate and Hearing Officer in the 4th Judicial Circuit, and stints as an Assistant Public Defender, Assistant State Attorney, and as a lawyer with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

Scott lauded Bass for his “commitment to his community and to public service. His service on the County Court has reflected the values we should expect from the judiciary: integrity, a tireless work ethic, respect for the rule of law, and an unwavering belief in equal justice under the law.”

Gregory S. Redmon, President of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association, also praised  the appointment, “Judge Bass is a very high caliber gentleman of keen intellect, sterling character, uncompromising fairness, and unbounded concern for his fellow man. As he has been in the County Court, the Honorable Lester Bass will be an outstanding member of the Circuit Court. Congratulations Judge Bass!”

Dinesh D’Souza got his FBI file from Ron DeSantis

As the likelihood of Ron DeSantis winning the Republican nomination in the Florida Governor’s race increases, one wonders how general election audiences will receive some of his more controversial right-wing ties.

One such tie: Conservative bomb-thrower Dinesh D’Souza.

During an appearance Friday on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, D’Souza told a national audience that DeSantis gave him his FBI file.

D’Souza offered a number of charges, including that his FBI file said he was a “right-wing conservative,” a “signal to the Justice Department that this is someone you’d want to go after.”

Despite being thwarted in earlier attempts to get the file directly, D’Souza was able to get it from DeSantis.

DeSantis has been a vocal defender of D’Souza, including objecting to what ended up being an unsuccessful campaign to get D’Souza removed as a speaker from this year’s GOP Sunshine Summit.

“Guys like me can make it clear, I would not have tweeted that,” DeSantis said. “[D’Souza] says a lot of things I disagree with and that’s just the reality of the situation.”

DeSantis’ take was the move to remove D’Souza was ideologically driven.

After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, D’Souza offered a number of tweets mocking the students as they petitioned for political redress.

“Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” read one tweet.

“Adults 1, kids 0,” read another.

From there, he mocked the students’ grief as fake: “Genuine grief I can empathize with. But grief organized for the cameras — politically orchestrated grief — strikes me as phony & inauthentic.”

DeSantis’ Congressional office offered a defense of D’Souza Friday afternoon.

“National Security Chairman Ron DeSantis conducted oversight over the prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza during the 114th Congress amid concerns that the prosecution was politically motivated,” wrote Elizabeth Dillon. “Based on the information gathered during this investigation, DeSantis believes the pardon of D’Souza was justified.”

Danny McAuliffe and Scott Powers contributed to this post.

Adam Putnam ad spotlights Ron DeSantis ‘betrayal’ of Florida

Florida Grown, a political committee supporting Adam Putnam‘s run for Florida Governor, released a hard-hitting ad Friday spotlighting opponent Ron DeSantis‘ “betrayal” of Florida.

The charge: “Why did he sell Florida out? Because the real Ron DeSantis is part of the Washington swamp, working for one of the largest lobbying firms in America… taking a million dollars from Wall Street… and facing massive ethics violations. Hypocrisy. Betrayal. That’s D.C. DeSantis.”

The ad spotlights DeSantis’ support of the FairTax, a national sales tax proposal that would replace the Internal Revenue Service. As well, the spot spotlights DeSantis supporting cuts in Social Security and raising the retirement age, via votes in three successive years.

Putnam has hammered DeSantis for trying to cut entitlements and spending power of senior citizens, and this ad amplifies those attacks, in addition to highlighting a DeSantis vote to raise the debt ceiling during the Barack Obama presidency.

Raising the debt ceiling — the term for raising the amount of debt the U.S. Treasury can incur — is a routine occurrence that started creeping back into the headlines in Obama’s second term. DeSantis voted to increase the debt ceiling early in his first term, as did all but 33 of his Republican colleagues in the U.S. House.

That punch may be damaging in a normal Republican primary race, though the Putnam vs. DeSantis brawl is anything but normal. Since earning an explicit endorsement from President Donald Trump, DeSantis has surged into the lead in the primary race and it’s unclear whether even an association with Obama could repel Florida Republicans, most of whom are firmly aboard the Trump train.

Despite losing his frontrunner status, Putnam has the support of many monied donors and has maintained a massive fundraising advantage in the race — the most recent round of campaign finance reports put him at $36.8 million raised and $7.3 million banked compared to $15 million raised and has $4.2 million banked for DeSantis.

With that kind of cash, there could be another volley of attacks on the horizon.

The ad is below.

‘Carpetbaggers’: Residency arguments play on both sides of CD 6 race

Both the Republican and Democratic primaries in Florida’s 6th Congressional District are competitive, and if certain candidates have their way on each side, the intraparty contests will come down to issues of who actually is a resident of the district.

Former state Rep. Fred Costello, in his third run for the seat, is attempting to make residency attacks stick against his primary opponents.

In a post on his campaign blog, Costello’s campaign spotlighted the words in a recent Daytona Beach News-Journal debate of opponent Mike Waltz, “dripping with arrogance and contempt for you, the voters of Congressional District 6.”

After Costello spotlighted his endorsements, Waltz offered a money quote that Costello hopes will resonate with his supporters: “You are part of the Volusia establishment. You are the establishment.  Some would even say you are the local swamp.”

The contrast, says Costello’s campaign: “Fred’s uplifting closing statement about standing for US, followed by the cheap shot from Mike Waltz dismissing us as ‘the local swamp.'”

“Fred pulled away the curtain and revealed that Waltz and [John] Ward are BOTH CARPETBAGGERS. Vote for the one Authentic #MAGA candidate who is one of US and has served us for decades,” the campaign continues.

This echoes a Costello line from the debate: “They call it the House of Representatives for a reason. It’s not the House of Foreigners. It’s not the House of Carpetbaggers. It’s the House of Representatives.”

Erin Isaac responded on behalf of Waltz, “Career politician Fred Costello is delusional. He spent the night bashing Ron DeSantis, lying about his standing with the NRA and attacking the military service of his opponents. While Mike Waltz was fighting terrorism, Fred Costello was nursing toothaches. Fred Costello owes Mike an apology for saying our brave Veterans have ‘done nothing’ for the people of this district.”

There are expectations that Waltz will start attacking Costello in ads, as the Ormond Beach Republican is not going away, despite only having $51,308 on hand (at last count).

Waltz and Ward, both heavily self-financed, have on hand more than $616,000 and $467,000 respectively.

Costello, while not on television, nonetheless is competitive with the two first-time candidates, both new to the district, in at least one poll.

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

On the Democratic side, the residency debate is avoiding lurid pejoratives, but is still a factor, if Thursday night’s debate in Daytona Beach matters.

Dr. Stephen Sevigny, one of three candidates vying for the nomination, noted (according to the News-Journal) that “for 30 years, we’ve outsourced our congressional representative to Jacksonville and Orlando.”

That argument is relevant as the current frontrunner, Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, is a recent arrival to CD 6, having rented a house in the district last year ahead of a run.

“Like a lot of people in this district, I wasn’t lucky enough to be born here. But I was smart enough to move here in 2004,” Soderberg asserted.

Unlike the tight race on the Republican side, there seems to be more of a hierarchy with the Dems.

survey released last week 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.

Sevigny and Upchurch both have resources, respectively with $365,662 and $171,874 on hand. But Soderberg has a national network of support that appears especially formidable, including backing from former Vice President Joe Biden.

Matt Caldwell campaign sees Marco Rubio, NRA backing as keys to victory

An internal memo obtained by Florida Politics Thursday reveals that the Matt Caldwell campaign feels it’s on the inside track to victory.

“With less than 1 month until Primary Election Day and voting underway, all signs show that Matt is the only Republican candidate in this race that can win both the primary and the general elections,” asserts campaign manager Brian Swensen.

The campaign touts an internal poll that shows Caldwell ahead, but Swensen is more encouraged by a drill down into the data, which shows that endorsements from Sen. Marco Rubio and the National Rifle Association make voters 44 percent and 53 percent more likely to vote for Caldwell.

“Just this past week,” Swensen asserts, “the NRA sent their statewide mailer and email promoting their endorsement of Caldwell. Having previously led in Cash on Hand between his campaign and committee, Matt will have the resources necessary to communicate his conservative message to voters.”

“The campaign’s own GOTV efforts – promoting Matt’s conservative record, as well as the endorsements of Senator Rubio, the NRA, and the growing list of conservative leaders and organizations – will continue to move undecided voters into Matt’s corner,” Swensen predicted.

In addition to endorsements, earned media — garnered last week after Facebook blocked a gun-thusiastic ad Caldwell had attempted to place — is in the candidate’s favor as well, Swensen asserted.

Caldwell had accused Facebook of censorship after the spot was pulled, but the company reversed course quickly.

Swensen believes that grassroots, including Caldwell’s 80,000 miles driven across the state, will help him close the deal with the 50 percent + of voters who have yet to pick a candidate.

The Caldwell campaign has prioritized straw polls: Swensen notes that Caldwell is winning a majority of them, even defeating Democrats when they are thrown into the mix.

Two of Caldwell’s opponents — Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven and state Sen. Denise Grimsley of Zolfo Springs — are on television this week, with Troutman targeting Caldwell’s House district in his buy.

More buys are imminent, to be sure. Grimsley and Caldwell have each raised more than $2 million, and have over a million each on hand. Troutman has spent $3 million of his own money on the race.

Bill Rufty and Drew Wilson contributed to this post. 

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