Staff Reports, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 162

Staff Reports

Flags at half-staff for Fort Myers officer

Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags at half-staff for Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller, late of the Fort Myers Police Department.

Jobbers-Miller, a three-year veteran of the force, was killed in the line of duty on Saturday, July 28.

Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Lee County Courthouse in Fort Myers, Fort Myers City Hall, the Fort Myers Police Department and the Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset next Monday.

“Our hearts are heavy to learn of the passing of Officer Jobbers-Miller,” Scott said in a statement.

“Police officers like Adam Jobbers-Miller put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. My wife Ann and I are praying for his family and everyone in the entire Lee County law enforcement community.”

Delegation for 8.3.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Obama endorses candidates in 14 states, but none in Florida

Most of the world knows President Donald Trump was in Tampa on Tuesday night holding one of his typically raucous rallies. He unabashedly got involved in a Republican primary by endorsing Rep. Ron DeSantis for governor over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama, also weighed in on the 2018 cycle this week by announcing support for 81 Democratic candidates in 14 states. Candidates in 22 House districts and one Senate U.S. Senate seat earned Obama’s backing.

Barack Obama weighs in on the 2018 midterms.

“Today I’m proud to endorse such a wide and impressive array of Democratic candidates — leaders as diverse, patriotic, and big-hearted as the America they’re running to represent,” he said on Twitter announcing the list.

 “But first, they need our votes — and I’m eager to make the case for why Democratic candidates deserve our votes this fall.”

None of the anointed candidates are from Florida. While he endorsed candidates for state races in Georgia and North Carolina, two Texas House hopefuls were the only federal candidates from southern states on the list.

Obama is backing some candidates taking on big fish, including House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions from the 32nd District in Texas. This district leans Republican by five percent but represents a takeover opportunity if the heralded “blue wave” materializes.

He is also hoping to make a difference in the Democrats’ attempt to drive whatever Republicans are left in California. Three of those on Obama’s list of 7 California endorsements are challenging Republicans holding two battleground districts in Southern California. The open seat currently held by the Democratic-despised Darrell Issa is a big target.

Unlike Trump, Obama avoided primaries with his federal endorsements. This may explain some of those who were not on his list.

For example, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell will be the Democratic nominee in District 26 and take on incumbent Rep. Carlos Curbelo in November, but the primary is a month away. Nancy Soderberg is running a good campaign in the District 6 and leads all candidates in fundraising, but no Obama endorsement yet.

The 44th president is also backing underdog nominees, but not Judge Mary Barzee Flores, who had no primary in her race against veteran incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart in District 25. She was appointed to the federal bench by Obama in 2015.

Perhaps the one not on the list that raised the most eyebrows was the newest Democratic superstar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. After winning her primary in New York City over the powerful Rep. Joe Crowley, she has upset some Democrats and concerned others with her approach to her newly-found celebrity status.

Perhaps the endorsement is not necessary as Ocasio-Cortez is expected to win the seat in November easily unless something strange happens. Rumors of a stealth campaign to get Crowley on the ballot will not go away.

Both Obama and Trump are hoping they can influence their party’s voters to carry the day. Control of Congress is at stake.

 Rubio only Republican to vote against military funding bill

With the Senate’s approval of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the $717 billion funding bill heads to the president’s desk. The measure, which funds military operations and gives the armed forces a pay raise, passed the Senate by an overwhelming 87-10 vote.

One of the “no” votes came as a surprise. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio joined the likes of progressive Senators such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Sen. Bill Nelson voted for the bill.

Marco Rubio: The lone holdout on a military funding bill. 

Rubio’s reasoning was different from the progressives, saying his vote stemmed from the lack of concern Congress is showing toward China, whom he described as the nation’s biggest threat. Rubio and other Senators wanted sanctions against Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE reinstated in the bill — but to no avail.

“I have never opposed an NDAA, and I have supported every single one of them, despite the fact that they didn’t have everything I wanted or everything I liked — until today,” Rubio said on the Senate floor. “We have yet to realize what a significant threat China poses to this country and in every realm and sphere. And until we do, we are going to continue to be in danger of surrendering and forfeiting our way of life and our place in the world.”

In the end, Republicans sharing the second term Senator’s views on the issue wound up voting for the bill anyway. Rubio was the only Republican to vote against it.

 Nelson takes leading role in 3D gun ban

After the Trump administration settled a lawsuit allowing a vendor to put plans for making 3D guns online, the outrage soon followed. Among those taking a lead role in condemning the action and trying to stop it is Democratic Sen. Nelson.

“American national security is going to be irreversibly weakened because of the actions of the administration because [it] will allow the online publication of blueprints to manufacture 3D manufacturing of plastic guns,” Nelson said on the Senate floor.

Bill Nelson files bill blocking 3D-printed gun blueprints.

Nelson quickly moved to stop Defense Distributed, a Texas company, from publishing the plans. As several states filed suit to stop the company, Nelson filed a bill, co-sponsored by 21 other Democrats. He also appeared with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and some Democratic colleagues in a news conference highlighting the issue.

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee objected, meaning the bill could not go to the floor. In the meantime, one of the lawsuits bore fruit as a federal judge in Seattle blocked the publication of the plans.

Scott holds slim lead over Nelson in new poll

The margin is never large, but Gov. Rick Scott consistently maintains a small lead over Nelson in a head-to-head matchup for Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat. A Mason-Dixon poll shows Scott holds a 47-44 lead over the three-term incumbent.

With the poll’s four percent margin of error, the race is a statistical tie. The pollster agrees the margin is small, but for any movement taking place, Scott is the beneficiary.

Rick Scott is holding a slim lead over Bill Nelson.

“There has been a small but clear shift toward Scott,” Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy says. Its previous poll in February showed Nelson with a 1-point advantage, 45 to 44 percent.

Only one poll out of the six conducted since June has been outside the margin of error.

Of those six, Scott has led in four of them by margins ranging from three to five points. Nelson led the other two, each by four points.

Last week, Florida Atlantic University released a survey showing Scott with a four-point lead.

Delegation Democrats endorse Florida AG candidate

As primary Election Day draws closer, several Democratic delegation members have weighed in on the race for Florida Attorney General. Their choice is state Rep. Sean Shaw from Tampa.

They chose Shaw, the son of Florida’s first African-American Chief Justice Leander Shaw, over Ryan Torrens. The group of eight legislators joins a growing list of endorsements flowing into the Shaw campaign.

Endorsements are lining up for Sean Shaw.

Those backing Shaw are Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Darren Soto and Frederica Wilson. Shaw also has the backing of SEIU Florida, the Florida Education Association, and the Florida Police Benevolent Association, among others.

“Unlike the current Attorney General, Sean will stand up to the special interests that have flooded our streets with weapons and push back against companies determined to rip off Floridians,” said Castor, who represents the Tampa district of Shaw’s residence. “Sean Shaw is the best choice for Attorney General of Florida.”

Lawson receives EPA funds for Jacksonville site

 A Jacksonville environmental nonprofit is the beneficiary of a new grant to help them carry out an ongoing mission. Democratic Rep Al Lawson announced a $25,000 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant for the Fairfax Environmental Committee for Justice.

Fairfax was created to help restore one of Jacksonville’s most prominent Superfund sites. The Fairfax Street Wood Treaters site is in a residential area near a school and houses.

Al Lawson brings it home for Jacksonville.

Over the years the property has become increasingly toxic due to the company’s use of chromated copper arsenate. The substance was being stored in above ground tanks that the EPA described as being in “poor condition.”

“It is essential that environmental cleanup efforts be transparent and accessible to the public,” Lawson said. “This grant will help the Fairfax Environmental Committee for Justice, Inc. achieve just that. I am proud to have helped secure this much-needed funding to help heal our environment.”

Big week for Soto

As he moves into the final month of his primary battle with Alan Grayson, Orlando Democratic Rep. Darren Soto has had a big week. He made two significant announcements that involve his campaign and the military veterans of Central Florida.

On Monday, he joined a select few delegation members who will have a Congressional office in a Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility. Soto will hold weekly office hours at the Orlando VA facility on Mondays.

It’s been a big week for Darren Soto.

“We are thrilled to announce our new office space inside the VA Medical Center in Lake Nona, where we will be providing convenient assistance to our district’s veterans,” Soto said in a news release. “This new location will greatly benefit veterans already living in the facilities, people who may have limited mobility and those traveling to the VA for their appointments.”

On Tuesday, he revealed he had received the endorsement of the gun control group founded by former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelley. They cited Soto for his consistent votes on the issue.

“Darren Soto is a fighter who has stood up to the gun lobby in Congress, refused to stay silent on the need to address our gun violence crisis, and championed legislation that will save lives,” Giffords said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our work with Darren as we push for the solutions that will keep our schools, streets, churches, and neighborhoods safe.”

Soto called Giffords, who was severely wounded in an attack that killed six, “the definition of courage.”

“It is humbling to have her support,” he said. “The NRA is a determined opponent, but the great majority of Americans are seeing through their lies. Together, we will overcome them and pass real gun safety reform.”

Buchanan: Do not weaken endangered species protection

The Trump administration takes daily hits from Democrats, but a prominent Florida Republican now has issues with two federal agencies. Rep. Vern Buchanan, co-chair of the Florida delegation, is letting the Commerce Department and Department of the Interior know that plans to weaken the Endangered Species Act will not go unchallenged.

Proposed regulations from the two departments would make it easier to remove a species now on the list, make it more difficult to list a new species for protection and weaken safeguards for critical habitats where these animals live. Another provision concerning Buchanan would end the requirement that federal agencies consult with scientists and wildlife agencies before approving permits for activities such as oil and gas drilling.

The Interior Secretary gets yet another ‘Dear Ryan’ letter from Vern Buchanan. 

In a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Buchanan called for a halt to this effort.

“I am writing today to urge you to withdraw immediately a dangerous and ill-advised proposal to gut key protections in the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” Buchanan wrote. “The 45-year-old law is the gold standard for conservation and the protection of wildlife.”

Buchanan, co-chair of the Animal Protection Caucus in Congress, called the proposal an “assault on nature.”

“Once a species becomes extinct, it is lost forever,” he added. “As caretakers of this country’s diverse natural resources, we should do everything in our power to protect these magnificent creatures.”

Baer launches first TV ad in CD 18

Mast’s leading challenger is now on the air with a television ad. Instead of attacking the incumbent’s positions, Democrat Lauren Baer is introducing herself to District 18 voters.

The ad, called “Our Home,” talks about her relationship with the voters of the district and tries to answer the fundamental question of why she is running.

To view the ad, click on the image below:


It ticks her views on critical issues such as education, health care, and the environment. Polling shows voters typically prefer Democrats on those issues.

It also puts a person behind the name, highlighting the fact “she’s a daughter, she’s a mother” and reveals she was an adviser for two Secretaries of State. In the ad, Mast goes unmentioned.

The ad will run in the Palm Beach media market, though details of the ad buy were not provided. She can afford a little TV time because her campaign had more than $1 million cash on hand as of June 30.

Baer is running against former JAG attorney Pam Keith in the Democratic primary on August 28. Keith had raised nearly $500,000 through June 30 but had less than $70,000 remaining.

Mast has raised nearly $4 million and has half of that remaining.

SEIU endorses Mucarsel-Powell

 To no one’s great surprise, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Florida has endorsed Mucarsel-Powell in her campaign against Curbelo.

“Debbie Mucarsel-Powell has a keen perspective on the needs and challenges of working people, and she has spent her life’s work on expanding access to quality health care for Floridians, especially those who need it most,” said SEIU Florida State Council President Monica Russo.

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell snares a big union endorsement.

SEIU represents workers from several sectors. The organization serves “over 55,000 active and retired Floridians including health care professionals, public employees, and property service workers,” according to its website.

“Debbie is the type of voice we desperately need in Washington to fight to protect our rights and represent our families, and SEIU Florida is pleased to endorse her candidacy,” Russo added.

 District 26 is one of the Democrats’ top targets for 2018. The race is rated as a toss-up.

AIF announces endorsements for Congress

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) has made several endorsements for this fall’s Congressional races. Among their choices are two Democrats and 12 Republicans running for re-election.

AIF also chose in a highly-contested Republican primary in CD 6, selecting former state Rep. Fred Costello over John Ward and Michael Waltz. They are all running to succeed DeSantis.

After the AIF endorsement, Fred Costello has a reason to smile.

The group also endorsed state Republican Rep. Mike Miller for the District 7 seat over Scott Sturgill. The winner will take on first-term Democrat Stephanie Murphy. Lawson in District 5 and Soto in District 9 also earned endorsements.

Also endorsed were the re-election bids of Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz in CD 1; Neal Dunn in CD 2; Ted Yoho in CD 3; John Rutherford in CD 4; Bill Posey in District 8; Dan Webster in CD 11; Gus Bilirakis in CD 12; Buchanan in CD 16; Mast in CD 18; Francis Rooney in CD 19; Diaz-Balart in CD 25; and Curbelo in CD 26.

 On this day in the headlines

August 3, 1992 — Bush supporters in the administration and Congress said that despite calls for his withdrawal by newspaper editorials and leading conservatives, George Bush is in the presidential race to stay. Bush, campaigning in the Chicago suburbs, ignored a shouted question about the calls for him to quit the race against challenger Bill Clinton, the Arkansas governor.

The newspapers, including the conservative-leaning Orange County Register, urged Bush to refuse the nomination when the party gathers in his adopted hometown of Houston in two weeks. “What you see now is not what’s going to happen in the next 90 days,” Clinton said in Little Rock.

August 3, 2008 — Both presidential candidates visited Florida yesterday with Arizona Sen. John McCain dropping by Orlando and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama visiting St. Petersburg. Obama pledged to enact an economic stimulus if elected while McCain reached out to minority voters in Central Florida.

Joining McCain during a stop at a Puerto Rican restaurant was Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez. Recent polls have shown the race for Florida’s 27 electoral votes as deadlocked.

 Korean War veterans return home

It took more than six decades, but some of the U.S. servicemen who lost their lives in Korea, are finally back in the United States. It will take much more time to determine who was on the plane that flew from South Korea to Hickam Air Force Base on Wednesday, but they received a dignified welcome.

Mike Pence attends ceremony honoring return of Korean War remains.

Vice-President Mike Pence flew to join military leaders personally in a moving ceremony. Each of the 55 flag-draped coffins received salutes from senior officers and a hand-over-heart from Pence, whose father was a Korean combat veteran.

“Some have called the Korean War the ‘forgotten war.’ But today, we prove these heroes were never forgotten,” Pence said at the ceremony. “Today, our boys are coming home.”

Jacksonville Bold for 8.3.18 — Home stretch

For political watchers, August offers an embarrassment of riches in this market.

A number of competitive and contested primaries, including one open Democratic primary and a citywide race for tax collector.

Not to mention the state races, including one competitive primary for governor and one that appears to be all but decided.

For those keeping score, at this point, it’s pretty easy to keep score.

The months of fundraising and endorsement hunting, of compromises and negotiations, of meet and greets — all but over now, with vote-by-mail underway and early voting soon enough.

Did they put in the work? Voters know that about candidates by now.

No election is won without a long-range plan. Politics is a game of ambition tempered with deliberation.

It’s true everywhere, a truth reflected in this week’s Bold.

Alvin Brown stumbles in radio hit

Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown continued his recent media blitz on Jacksonville outlets by taking calls on WJCT‘s First Coast Connect Tuesday morning.

Can Alvin Brown win back Corrine Brown’s seat? (Image via Jax Daily Record)

Brown, who had managed not to say anything newsworthy in his two television spots over the weekend, described himself as “the Democrat who’s going to stand up to Donald Trump” and “challenge the status quo” — a marked shift from four years in City Hall where he offered little challenge to extant paradigms.

And ultimately, as was the case when we interviewed him in late June, questions about his tenure in City Hall still loom over his campaign, three years after he left the St. James Building.

When confronted by host Melissa Ross with a quote from his opponent, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, saying that Brown’s record as mayor was subpar and that Brown called him and said “he wanted to be just like me,” Brown dodged the question, returning to talking points like “36,000 new jobs” familiar to those around in his 2015 re-election bid.

Brown was also asked about his pivot to the left from a “conservative Democrat” posture he asserted as recently as the 2015 reelection bid, including a failure to get Human Rights Ordinance expansion through after a 2012 vote against LGBT rights expansion.

Brown said he “focused on the issues that mattered the most,” which involved the economy and pushing for a “living wage,” again dodging the question that nettled LGBT and progressive voters in Jacksonville.

When asked if his move left was genuine, Brown dodged that question too, saying that he opposed “bullying, discrimination, and violence,” and that he enacted LGBT protections in City Hall.

Actually, though, that was Lenny Curry’s executive order.

Indivisible bets on Soderberg in CD 6

Ambassador Nancy Soderberg scored another key endorsement Monday in her bid for the Democratic nomination in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, when the local Indivisible United Florida 6th District endorsed her candidacy.

Nancy Soderberg looks like the favorite in CD 6. She has deep Jacksonville ties.

“Nancy exemplifies the leadership qualities we seek in an individual to represent the constituents of this district in Washington, D.C.,” said Becky Berman, Co-Leader of Indivisible United Florida 6th District.

“Grassroots groups like Indivisible United Florida 6th District are helping lead the movement for new leadership in our district,” Soderberg said.

“Their hard work and dedication is critical to winning this seat in November. Our people-driven, grassroots campaign will continue working with committed local groups like Indivisible to bring change to FL-06. I am thrilled to have their endorsement and am proud to fight alongside these local leaders,” Soderberg added.

The endorsement from the local Indivisible group is another boost for a strong, disciplined campaign intent on flipping the east-central Florida seat from Ron DeSantis red to Democrat blue.

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

Casey DeSantis goes national

Casey Black DeSantis, one of the most familiar faces on the Jacksonville media landscape, went national this week via an ad for the Ron DeSantis gubernatorial campaign.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

“Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump. But he’s also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids,” Casey DeSantis says, kicking off an ad that attempts to meld humor and the presentation of her husband as a family man.

The spot features DeSantis exhorting a child to “build the wall” using giant construction blocks, reading to a child from “The Art of the Deal,” and teaching a child to read from a Trump sign.

“Make America great again,” DeSantis reads to one of his offspring.

“People say Ron is all-Trump, but he’s really so much more,” Mrs. DeSantis quips, as the camera pans to a child of tender age in a crib, wearing a Make America Great Again onesie.

“Big league,” the candidate says, “so good.”

The ad was derided on social media; however, the campaign estimates that the total reach equaled a million dollars of paid exposure.

Greene works Northeast Florida

On Monday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene made the rounds in Northeast Florida, a bus tour that included a number of Jacksonville stops.

Jeff Greene gave out backpacks (and campaign swag) at a Jacksonville school.

At one of them — a back-to-school backpack giveaway at Northwestern Middle School — we caught up with the candidate, who per at least one recent poll of the race is within 6 points of leader Gwen Graham.

Greene, as one might expect, projected confidence.

Noting that he has only been in the campaign since mid-June, Greene asserted that he’s “running against candidates who have been running for a year and a half.”

“I’m really thrilled,” Greene said, “that an electorate that had not been excited is suddenly getting excited and we’re doing better than we even expected.”

“The reaction I’m getting as we drive down the road — people honking their horns, thumbs up. We get off the bus and crowds have been great everywhere. The message has been getting through; Democrats are tired of losing,” Greene said.

Dirty campaign?

With the Democratic gubernatorial primary fast approaching, some of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum‘s most controversial allies are pushing an ad attacking front-runner Gwen Graham.

Some hand-wringing from Jax Dems about third-party spending on behalf of Andrew Gillum.

It started Monday: a $500,000 ad buy in Jacksonville, Tampa, and West Palm Beach via the Collective Super PAC.

This is not the first ad buy by the group hitting a negative message on Graham.

The new spot, “Zero Regrets,” attacks Graham for touting “progressive credentials despite voting with banks, supporting the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, and publicly undermining President Obama’s Affordable Care Act to get reelected,” asserts the Collective group.

The group, after this buy, will have committed over $1.75 million to Gillum.

A pair of Jacksonville Democratic members of the Jacksonville City Council blasted Gillum for the ads.

“Andrew Gillum is running a dirty campaign. He is the only candidate in the race supporting negative Super PAC ads and he is the only candidate attacking his fellow Democrats — more than the Republicans are even attacking our party,” Garrett Dennis said.

“Mayor Gillum likes to say we need to give voters something to vote for — not against. If his campaign and Super PAC followed his own advice, maybe they would be doing better in this race,” Dennis added.

Dennis’ colleague Tommy Hazouri added that “The Republicans are loving to watch as Andrew Gillum embraces secret money and attacks Gwen Graham with Super PAC money. This irresponsible sham weakens our party, and makes it harder for us to win the General Election.”

Daniels holds cash lead

As of July 20, the last date for which campaign finance data is available, House District 14 incumbent Rep. Kim Daniels is still well ahead of Democratic challenger Paula Wright.

Kim Daniels, per the Florida Chamber, is the best Dem bet for business in the House.

In the money chase ahead of the open Democratic primary, Daniels raised $7,642, and spent $13,420, between July 7 and July 20. She has just over $21,500 on hand.

Of the contributions, $5,000 came in five $1,000 checks from a North Miami Beach address housing a gaggle of dialysis companies. Also contributing: former Republican candidate for 4th Circuit State Attorney Wes White, as well as Harry Rummell of the Peter Rummell family.

Of the over $13,000 spent, the majority was on campaign materials, food for workers, et al. Daniels is also employing a consultant with some name value, former state Rep. Terry Fields, who was paid $1,700 during the period.

Wright, whose fundraising was slow out of the gate, showed some improvement on the last report filed in June; she raised $5,364 and spent $1,020. All told, she has roughly $7,000 on hand.

More endorsements for Polson

More and more Jacksonville Democrats are lining up to endorse first-time candidate Tracye Polson in House District 15.

The Trayce Polson campaign is not fading away, and the seat could flip blue this fall.

HD 15 is currently Rep. Jay Fant‘s seat, but he opted to leave it months back to run for Attorney General. Polson — the cash leader in the race — hopes to turn the typically deep red seat blue.

And Jacksonville Democrats back her, almost without exception. Three more endorsements — from Rep. Tracie Davis, Jacksonville City Council Member Garrett Dennis and former Rep. Mia Jones — dropped Tuesday.

More will be coming.

Davis lauded Polson’s “passion for improving education” and “endorsement of Duval County teachers,” describing her as a “professional listener” with “compassion and vision.”

Polson lauded the trio’s “commitment and dedication to our city … not just Democratic values, but for policies that reflect and help every community and neighborhood in Jacksonville.”

For Polson, the endorsements are the latest sign of momentum.

Sen. Audrey Gibson, who aligns with the three latest endorsers, backs her. As do EMILY’s List, the Sierra Club, and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham.

Her endorsements come from beyond her party as well: the nonpartisan Jacksonville Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police threw down, as did former GOP mayoral candidate Audrey Moran.

And what’s more, she has the cash lead.

Fischer in control in HD 16

Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Jacksonville’s House District 16, continued to maintain a strong lead over his Democratic opponent Ken Organes in the latest filings.

Jason Fischer seeks a second term in the House.

Neither faces primary opposition; this is a race to November.

In the two weeks between July 7 and July 20, Fischer brought in $7,800 to his campaign account, with an additional $11,500 raised by his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.

Contributions of over $1,000 came from familiar names: the Jacksonville Kennel Club; JAX BIZ (the political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce); Wayne Weaver; CSX Transportation; Duke Energy PAC; and Peter Rummell were all represented on the committee or hard money side.

Between committee and campaign account funds, Fischer has roughly $185,000 on hand.

Organes, a first-time candidate and a retiree from the aforementioned CSX Transportation, brought in $5,326 in the two week period, giving him approximately $27,500 on hand.

Ray tax collector bid backed by gun lobby

The National Rifle Association has an interest in the four-way race for Duval County Tax Collector, with the gun lobby backing former state Rep. Lake Ray.

A familiar orange mailer from the group trumpets Ray’s A+ rating on gun issues, giving the Jacksonville Republican another boost ahead of the August primary.

Ray has maintained a cash lead over his three opponents, and that continued in reports released by the four campaigns Friday.

Lake Ray is enjoying support from the NRA in his bid for tax collector.

Ray has raised and self-financed a total of $143,435, with roughly $109,000 of that on hand still. Of the $6,500 brought in during the most recent two-week reporting period (July 7-20), the biggest name contributor was Sleiman Holdings.

Worth noting: Toney Sleiman, the strip mall magnate embroiled in ongoing litigation with the city of Jacksonville over the dilapidated Landing, is at odds with fellow Republican Mayor Lenny Curry. It will be interesting to see if Curry endorses someone besides Ray, who at times has proved to be too independent of the mayor’s priorities.

Ray is spending money now: He dropped $22,863 in the most recent reporting period, the bulk of it on printing and mailing costs.

Shaver dithers, dumps consultant

This week saw movement in a story we covered last week, regarding St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver and a political consultant with whom she and other St. Augustine pols did a lot of business.

Bad for business: Mayor Nancy Shaver dumps controversial consultant, but may be too late to matter.

St. Augustine’s Daniel Carter accused well-connected local political blogger Michael Gold, whose Historic City News website attracts advertising from many prominent local politicians, of sending him a racist email.

As Carter wrote on Facebook: “Calling out a news outlet for being a racist piece of ____ and in turn, the editor-in-chief responds with overt racist remarks confirming that he is, in fact, a racist piece of ____.”

Shaver, when we talked to her, feigned ignorance. Yet, as WJCT reported this week, she evolved, asserting that the consultant’s email was “vile,” and that she would pull advertising.

Shaver, per campaign finance records, was spending less with Gold than she had in previous cycles. However, with an election just weeks away, it’s by no means certain that her delayed reaction to a consultant calling a constituent “lazy and shiftless” (among other racist phrases) will reassure anyone.

Dogs to relieve anxious flyers at JIA

Jax Paws, a program where K-9s and their handlers will help comfort anxious passengers at Jacksonville International Airport, launched this week, reports Action News Jax.

There are several advantages for having comfort dogs at the airport, says Anne Bell with Jax Paws: “It really has been proven that physiologically it calms the person, lowers the blood pressure … people seem to respond well to the dogs.”

Specially trained dogs help relieve anxiety at Jacksonville International. (Image via Action News Jax)

More than a dozen dogs are part of the program, which will begin at JIA from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends.

volunteers can soon begin walking dogs in the airport, after passing the licensing process.

“Probably give this two or three months to see how this goes and then open this up to other handlers,” Bell told Action News.

JTA expands bus service to Yulee, Nassau County

JTA will soon be offering direct bus service between Yulee and Jacksonville.

On Tuesday, JTA Board approved an interlocal agreement with the Nassau County Council on Aging/NassauTRANSIT, creating the Nassau-Duval Regional Express Bus Service, per WJCT.

Service will start Dec. 3.

Starting December, JTA will begin service to Nassau County.

“We will be launching the Red Line which is the next corridor, known as the East Corridor, of the First Coast Flyer Bus Rapid Transit System,” said JTA spokeswoman Leigh Ann Rassler in a statement to reporters. “And so, when we launch the Red Line, we’ve got some other enhancements, and this fits nicely into those changes,”

The service will include two morning and three evening trips between Yulee and Jacksonville.

“We are excited about offering another public transportation option to all residents in Nassau County,” Janice Ancrum, NCCOA President and CEO, told WJCT. “JTA has the expertise and resources to leverage NassauTRANSIT’s mobility services within and across our own county.”

The Florida Department of Transportation will fund the program for the first three years.


Appointed Arezou Jolly (reappointed) to Jacksonville Transportation Authority.

Jaguars: We’re number 8!

Training camp is in full swing with workouts designed to get the team ready for the season opener. Goal number one is to survive the next four weeks with no devastating injuries.

If that happens, the Jaguars are projected to be one of the NFL’s elite teams in 2018. As a sign of the respect they gained by their postseason run last year, USA Today’s NFL Power Rankings lists Jacksonville as the eighth-best team in the league.

We’re No. 8! (Image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Of course, all of these rankings are subjective and those involved in ranking the teams clearly believe the NFC is much stronger than the AFC. No fewer than 6 of the top 7 teams come from the NFC.

The New England Patriots are the highest-rated AFC team, coming in at number two. The Jaguars are the next-highest team, just as the two teams finished the 2017 season.

Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia is the top-ranked team.

AFC South Division foes Houston and Tennessee came in at number 11 and 12, respectively. Indianapolis is ranked No. 31 out of 32 teams.

There are good reasons for the high rankings for the Texans’ and Titans’ ranking. They have the easiest, and second-easiest schedules in the league for 2018 while Jacksonville’s strength of schedule is listed as a tie for No. 25.

The Jaguars open their preseason schedule on Thursday against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field.

If they avoid the injury bug through four preseason games, they will be completely satisfied to still be ranked number 8 heading into the season opener on September 9 against the New York Giants.

Rick Scott says state will fight red tide

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday said he directed state agencies “to mobilize all available resources to address red tide impacts in Southwest Florida’s coastal communities.”

The announcement mentioned the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Red tide is a “naturally occurring algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs nearly every year.”

“FWC and DEP will enhance cleanup efforts, public awareness initiatives and water testing to ensure that Floridians understand the best ways to minimize the impact of red tide,” a press release added.

“FWC will deploy additional scientists to assist local efforts to save animals affected by the naturally occurring red tide. The agencies will also meet with local officials and update the public on what steps are being taken to mitigate red tide.

“During my time in office, we have invested millions of dollars to research and mitigate red tide along Florida’s Gulf Coast,” Scott said in a statement.

“With this year’s red tide being more substantial than previous years, we must do everything we can to help minimize its harm to our water and wildlife. We will continue to support Florida’s biologists to study the best ways to combat red tide, and our state wildlife and environmental professionals will aid Florida communities that are being impacted.”

For more information about the status of naturally occurring red tide, go here. To report a fish kill, contact the FWC Fish Kill Hotline at (800) 636-0511.

Businesses across Florida endorse dog-racing ban

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign announced late Thursday that it received the endorsement of 57 local businesses from across the state.

The campaign, which is promoting passage of a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at ending live dog racing in Florida, is pressing ahead despite a judge’s ruling that the measure’s ballot title and summary are defective and can’t go on this year’s ballot.

The state also on Thursday filed a notice of appeal to Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ decision.

“The state dog racing mandate … goes against free market values, and is causing harm to gentle greyhounds,” said Maurice R. Mizrahi, owner of Temptations Catering and Events in Fort Lauderdale and CaterMasters in Naples.

Tracks in Florida are generally required to continue running live dog or horse races to have slots and card games that make those facilities more money. A move afoot called “decoupling,” or removing the live racing requirement, has failed in the Legislature in recent years.

“The dogs are losing their lives,” Mizrahi added. “The only group benefiting from the state dog racing mandate is a handful of greyhound breeders. For them, the state dog racing mandate has become a subsidy program for their failing businesses.”

The measure was slated for the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). Amendments need no less than 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

The endorsements announced Thursday are from the following businesses:

Anderson Allergy & Asthma

Artistic Air Conditioning

Bark Avenue Bakery

Beach Express

Benson’s Canine Cookies

Best Books, Inc.

Book Warehouse, Inc.


CMi AC & Electrical

Coldwell Banker Hartung & Noblin, Inc.

Cool Critters Studio LLC

Courteous Canine, Inc.

Cowgirl Pizza

Crave It Fitness

Del Campo Dermatology and Laser Institute

Dog Lovers of Tarpon

Doggie Dayz Daycare & Training

Earth Pets Natural Pet Market

Earthwise Pet Supply


Greypit Inc.

Hollywood Houndz LLC

The Hound’s Meow

Imperial Dry Cleaners

Joey D’s Restaurant and Bar

KLP Consulting

Louise’s Pet Connection

Market on South

MEZE 119

Mojo’s Backyard

A Much Kneaded Massage

The Nest

Palm Harbor Pet Grooming

The Pet Nanny Lakeland

Pet Paradise Resort

Pet Pros

The Pets Natural Choice, Inc.

Rock Pamper Scissors

Rain Dogs Pet Grooming

RGU Color

San Carlos Realty, Inc.

Sanford Mower Sales and Services

Sandy Levy/Visual Impact Photography

Scottie Paws Pet Resort & Spa

Sebring Medical Hearing

Shape Shifters Fitness

Shandra’s Pet Salon

Silly Willie’s

Summit Automotive

Temptations Catering and Event Planning

Total Martial Arts and Fitness

Tri Star Karate


Vero Beach Book Center

Won Love Dog Training

Woof Gang Bakery (Fleming Island)

Woof Gang Bakery (Wellington)

CFO Jimmy Patronis taps Ken Lawson as ‘cryptocurrency advisor’

In what he called a “continued effort to bring clarity to cryptocurrency in Florida,” Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis on Thursday announced that Ken Lawson, CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, would be his “cryptocurrency advisor.”

The role is an unpaid consulting position; Lawson will remain full-time at VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s public-private marketing tourism agency.

“He will lead efforts to identity a cryptocurrency chief and collaborate with stakeholders to ensure innovation and economic development are at the forefront while getting ahead of potential fraud,” a press release said. “Lawson will work with CFO Patronis’ law enforcement team, regulatory entities, existing cryptocurrencies, and business stakeholders.”

“Ken’s experience in both the private and public sectors, his investigatory work to protect our financial system, and work to drive economic growth in Florida, makes him a tremendous asset to the cryptocurrency space,” Patronis said in a statement.

“Considering the Seminole County Tax Collector now accepts bitcoin as a form of payment, two of Florida’s major metro areas are in the top 10 cities in the world that are cryptocurrency friendly, and Florida being a top target for consumer fraud, we need someone who has both the business and investigative experience to provide the needed guidance on our efforts to bring oversight to the industry,” he added.

“Ken is that individual and I know he will take every action possible to protect Floridians while making Florida the leader for emerging digital asset technology and innovative ideas.”

Added Lawson, “I’m thrilled to take on this advisory role to help bring transparency to cryptocurrency in Florida. In this role, I’ll be assisting the CFO in his efforts to ensure accountability and oversight for this important industry in Florida.

“Outside of my role at VISIT FLORIDA, I’m excited about working with CFO Patronis to accomplish his goal of protecting Floridians from criminals who seek to use new technology to scam people and allowing innovation to flourish in our state.”


Here’s some background on Lawson, from the press release:

Lawson serves as president and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency, and previously served as secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

He has held several senior positions with federal law enforcement agencies, including serving as the Assistant Secretary of Enforcement for the Department of the Treasury where he had oversight of federal law enforcement agencies responsible for protection of America’s financial system.

Lawson also served as the Assistant Chief Counsel for Field Operations at the Transportation Security Administration, and an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division for the Middle District of Florida.

He also spent time in the financial services industries in the private sector, including a year as Chief of Party for the Financial Crimes Prevention Project in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he directed international anti-money laundering, anticorruption, and counterterrorist financing projects.

Lawson served as a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, Judge Advocate General’s Division.

Modern taqueria concept from Rooster & Till owners latest in Tampa’s Sparkman Wharf

Gallito, a twist on Mexican street food, is the latest addition to Sparkman Wharf, an expansive waterfront retail, dining and recreation center at the center of the billion-dollar Water Street Tampa project.

The modern taqueria concept is the creation of chef Ferrell Alvarez and restaurateur Ty Rodriguez.

Alvarez, a 2017 James Beard Best Chef South nominee, and Rodriguez are best known for the Seminole Heights culinary sensation Rooster & the Till (named the No. 1 restaurant for 2018 by the Tampa Bay Times) as well as the upcoming Nebraska Mini Mart.

Gallito joins Foundation Coffee, a well-known local coffee outlet, and Whatever Pops, a cold treats and popsicle outpost.

Sparkman Wharf is the proposed 180,000 square foot loft-style office space, with another 65,000 square feet of street-level retail and a one-acre park-like location along the Garrison Channel in downtown Tampa.

Part of the ambitious Water Street Tampa development, Wharf is owned and operated by Strategic Property Partners, a partnership between Cascade Investment LLC and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

Located within the Sparkman Wharf dining garden, Gallito will complement other planned food offerings. According to a statement from developers, the Wharf’s innovative garden will represent a “celebration of great food and community, with inventive new ideas and menus not found anywhere else in the city.”

“We chose to partner with Sparkman Wharf and open Gallito so we could be part of the exciting redevelopment of Channelside,” Alvarez said. “Downtown Tampa is experiencing a historic, urban growth period and we think this is the perfect opportunity to plant roots there and contribute to the city’s ongoing renaissance.”

The dining garden will merge an open lawn for recreation and Fermented Reality — an open-air, waterside biergarten with over 30 taps. Currently under construction by Tampa-based contractor EWI, the dining garden, biergarten, and recreational lawn are set to open October 2018.

Updates on the progress of @SparkmanWharf can be found on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with a newsletter available at

AT&T marks blockbuster $3B investment in Florida market

AT&T is celebrating a major milestone this year — more than $3 billion invested in Florida wireless and wired networks since 2015.

Improvements made by the global telecommunications giant include a boost to reliability, coverage, speed and overall performance for both residential and business consumers. Also, upgrades have helped improve critical services for public safety and first responders, where reliable communications in an emergency are the difference between life and death.

Because of legislation passed by state lawmakers and signed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2017, AT&T Florida President Joe York said the company will continue its extensive commitment to the Sunshine State in the future, bringing even more innovation to its customers.

“Governor Scott has signed legislation that encourages companies to invest more in wireless infrastructure,” York said. “We’re now speeding our wireless build-out plans in Florida with tens of millions of dollars dedicated to improving its mobile network.

“This investment will also pave the path to 5G mobile services in the years ahead.”

In 2017, AT&T’s dedication to Florida included 3,700 wireless network upgrades, and extra capacity added to more than 3,500 cell sites to increase data speeds and network performance. Twenty-one new cell sites were added statewide: Bunnell, Celebration, Chipley, Clarksville, Deltona, Florida City, Fort Walton, Fort White, Gotha, Jacksonville, Lakeland, Marathon Key, Nocatee, Orlando, Perry, Ponte Vedra, and Wewahitchka

Florida sports fans also saw big gains as new Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) were set up at Daytona International Speedway, Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, and at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, allowing them to enjoy more dependable connections and faster speeds.

In addition, a new DAS at Florida International University in Miami that is boosting indoor coverage in nine campus buildings.

According to Stephen Trickey, executive VP and COO of Associated Industries of Florida, AT&T’s sustained investment — along with other members of the private sector — is “crucial” to the mission of building a state-of-the-art infrastructure to make “business growth possible and assuring that our residents have the tools to stay connected and entertained.”

The AT&T LTE network now serves more than 400 million people in North America and nearly 3.5 million companies of all sizes around the world. By augmenting its 4G LTE network, the company is laying the foundation for 5G, the next advance in network technologies.

As a part of the FirstNet — the new nationwide communications platform dedicated to the country’s public safety community — AT&T’s goal is to strengthen and modernize public safety communications capabilities in Florida and nationwide. Last year, governors from all 50 states, five territories, and D.C. entered the public-private partnership to provide coverage and innovative capabilities for first responders — today and for decades to come.

In 2018, for the 4th year in a row, AT&T earned a top spot in FORTUNE’s Most Admired Companies list for telecommunications providers, placing No. 49 among the 50 most admired companies overall.

Al Lawson scores EPA funds for Jacksonville Superfund site

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Al Lawson announced a $25,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant for the Fairfax Environmental Committee for Justice.

The Jacksonville non-profit was launched to help remedy one of Jacksonville’s most high-profile Superfund sites. And now, resources will be available to sustain its efforts via hiring technical advisors.

Per the EPA: Fairfax Street Wood Treaters site is in a residential area, near a school and houses, and over decades the property became increasingly toxic, due to the company’s use of chromated copper arsenate, stored in seven above ground tanks the EPA described as being in “poor condition.”

The EPA was pressured by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as far back as 2010 to move on this. The project has been on the EPA radar since; however, despite efforts, testing in March 2018 revealed arsenic contaminated soil. Soil at the nearby Susie E. Tolbert Elementary School is being cleaned up presently, the Feds assert.

“It is essential that environmental cleanup efforts be transparent and accessible to the public,” Rep. Lawson said. “This grant will help the Fairfax Environmental Committee for Justice, Inc. achieve just that. I am proud to have helped secure this much-needed funding to help heal our environment.”

Over 60 greyhound adoption groups oppose racing ban

More than five dozen greyhound adoption groups in the U.S. and Canada — including 14 in Florida — have formally opposed a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at ending commercial dog racing in the state.

Greyhound Adopters for Racing, which also opposes the ban, released the announcement Wednesday. Its statement said the number of groups “reflects the breadth and depth of support for greyhound racing in the adoption community.”

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign has been promoting passage of Amendment 13, put on the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

The proposal, which needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, would end betting on dog racing in the state. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.

Greyhound owners and breeders, who oppose the ban, have challenged the proposed amendment in court; a Tallahassee judge has yet to rule on whether the measure can stay on the ballot.

Dr. Jennifer Ng, the South Carolina veterinarian who is president of the adoption coalition, said “no amount of money can buy the expertise of greyhound adoption groups, which are on the front lines of greyhound welfare.

“That so many greyhound adoption groups from around the country — who know racing greyhounds and deal with them every day of the year — would come out in support of racing, speaks volumes about whether racing is ‘cruel’ or ‘inhumane’ to the dogs as the animal rights activists claim,” she added.

The 61 greyhound adoption groups now opposing Amendment 13 are below. More are expected “in the near future,” Ng said:

— ACT Greyhounds, Adopt A Greyhound Atlanta, Adoptable Greyhounds of Florida, Alabama Greyhound Rescue and Adoption Center, Allies for Greyhounds, Arizona Adopt A Greyhound, Awesome Greyhound Adoptions, Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions, Bluegrass Greyhound Adoption, Box to the Wire Greyhound Adoptions, California Greyhound Adoption Promotion, Camp Greyhound, Crazy for Greyhounds Adoptions, Everything Grey Greyhound Haven, Everything Greyt, Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption Sarasota, FastK9’s Greyhound Adoption, Forever Home Greyhound Adoption, Gemini’s Pampered Greyhounds, God’s Greyts Greyhound Group, Greyed A Greyhound Assistance and Placement Services, Greyhound Action League of Buffalo, Greyhound Adoption of Ohio, Greyhound Angels Adoption of New Jersey, Greyhound Crossroads, Greyhound Friends of North Carolina, Greyhound Pet Adoption of Florida Southeast, GPA Massachusetts Adoption Center, GPA Tampa Bay, Greyhound Pets of Arizona, Greyhound Placement Service of New Hampshire, Greyhound Rescue Foundation of Tennessee, Greyhound Rescue of New York, Greyhound Support Transport, Greyhounds As Pets of Northeast Florida, Greyhounds Pets of Atlantic Canada, Greytful Hearts Greyhound Rescue, GST’s Sun State Greyhound Adoption, Halfway Home Greyhound Adoption, Hounds of the Heartland, Iowa Greyhound Park Adoption Program, It’s a Grey Area Greyhound Adoption, Keystone Greyhounds, Northern Greyhound Adoptions, Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption, Northern Sky Greyhound League, Northwest Canadian Greyhound League, Paws on the Mountain Greyhound Adoption, Personalized Greyhounds, PRO Greyhound, Project Racing Home Greyhound Adoptions, Pups Without Partners Greyhound Adoption, Pure Michigan Greyhound Adoption, Racing Home Greyhound Adoption, Rainbow’s End Greyhound Adoption, Running the Rail Greyhound Adoption, Southern California Greyhound Adoption Legion, Star City Greyhound Adoptions, The League of Extraordinary Greyhounds, Triangle Greyhound Society, Wheeling Island Greyhound Adoption Center.

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