A defense contractor operated by congressional candidate Michael Waltz has continued to enjoy “Women-Owned Small Business” status on some contracts years after its female founder sold the company.
Waltz, CEO for Metis Solutions, in August won the Republican nomination to succeed Ron DeSantis in Florida’s 6th Congressional District. He faces Democrat Ambassador Nancy Soderberg,
And for eight years, he has worked at Metis Solutions, a company founded in 2010 by Mary Beth Long, the first woman confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary of Defense. The business provided strategy and policy support to military and corporate clients, and since 2012 pulled in more than $100 million in federal contracts, mostly through the Defense Department.
The company as it sought federal contracts claimed both “women-owned business” and “women-owned small business” status, designations only awarded to companies for which women directly own or control 51 percent.
But Long in 2016 sold Metis in a private equity deal. Long could not be reached for comment but her staff said they did not believe she had any more ownership in the company. Now Waltz serves as CEO, Long’s former job.
Waltz’s campaign dismissed the insinuation of wrong-doing as a politically motivated attack.
“With just 21 days to go, Nancy Soderberg and her attack dogs at the Pelosi-run DCCC continue to desperately smear Michael Waltz with false and disrespectful lies,” said Waltz spokesman Erin Isaac.
A search of federal contracts for Metis Solutions continues to show “women-owned” status still on many projects, even some contracts that started as recently as last month.
For example, Metis Solutions started a contract Sept. 28 with the Department of Treasury worth up to $620,128 for intelligence analysis support and listed itself as WOB and WOSB. The business landed a Defense contract worth $283,000 over two months this year similarly listing those designations.
Metis nabbed a $27,353 contract for work at Camp Pendleton, and a $195,280 contract for design work in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
And a contract that started in June for analytical support with the Treasury Department guarantees more than $2.4 million and could be worth nearly $8 million for a year-long project in Virginia.
But a company’s status as a small, minority or woman-owned business is determined at the start of the bid process for a contract. Long still worked with the company when the bidding process first began.
That status extends to projects or task orders related to the original contract until the business has to re-certify.
A bid submitted by Metis today won’t include the WOB or WOSB status. Indeed, a number of contracts Metis Solutions holds with the federal government don’t list that status anywhere.
“As a combat veteran who was awarded four Bronze Stars, Michael Waltz is a war hero who, with his former business partner, returned home, played by the rules and built a company from the ground up that supports the efforts of the men and women of our armed forces,” Isaac said.
“It is disgraceful that Nancy Soderberg along with Nancy Pelosi, who both know full-well how the federal contracting process works, would play ignorant and turn a blind eye to these kinds of baseless attacks.”
Today, Waltz serves as CEO of Metis Solutions, and according to the company’s Treasury contracts, the company’s four highest paid executives are also male, an interesting fact considering those same contracts still show the WOB designation.
Waltz, according to the Treasury contracts, earns $439,974 as company CEO while Metis President Christopher Wynes earns $468,806. Executive Vice President Bill Antley gets paid $211,515 and Chief Financial Officer Joe Kuhlmann earns $201,152.
Jennifer Sammons, Metis’ vice president of Business Development and Proposals, earns $181,301, according to contract information. That’s hardly chump change, but with an income less than half that of Waltz, it hardly counts as majority or controlling interest for the company. And the Metis website lists Sammons as the only female executive on the team, a move away from the company’s woman-owned days.
Long herself explained to Inc. Magazine in 2014 the challenges of selling a WOSB-designated company. “It keeps the small and women-owned companies from having an equity event,” says Long.
But two years after that interview, she apparently sold the company in just that way.
Florida Politics has reached out to Metis Solutions but has not heard back.
Gov. Rick Scott has messaged heavily in the Senate race, including an ad released Tuesday spotlighting his post-Michael storm recovery efforts.
However, a more effective testimonial came Tuesday evening, when Scott spotlighted a ringing endorsement of his storm management skills from Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson.
Lawson, a first-term Democrat representing Florida’s 5th Congressional District, eschewed the rhetoric of partisan division and gave the Republican Governor high marks for his response to Hurricane Michael, continuing a trend of reliability.
“Every time there’s a threat of a natural disaster, a hurricane, the Governor’s been on top of it,” Lawson said.
“We will never know how many lives that he’s been responsible for saving,” Lawson added.
“The first thing you hear about is somebody dying in a hurricane. But just think: if it hadn’t been for his leadership, how many other people would be in the same situation,” Lawson asserted.
“When you’ve been around as long as I have, it’s very easy for you to understand people who take a proactive role in trying to preserve life,” Lawson added. “He’s done an excellent job … for many, many years.”
“It’s not about how much we get out of life, but how much we give, and he’s given a whole lot,” Lawson said.
Just as the Scott campaign’s ad Tuesday used news footage of storm recovery, it is very easy to imagine this footage circulating in the commercial sphere.
The Governor has a narrow lead in the most recent St. Pete Poll of the race, with respondents giving Scott’s storm response a net +40 favorability rating.
In contrast to recent weeks, where Scott’s official schedule would often be a void, the Governor is exhaustively documenting his days of storm recovery work, including frequent conversations with the Democrat who would replace him as Governor: Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a first-term Democrat, was thwarted by the committee he once chaired Tuesday in a second straight meeting, regarding a resolution of opposition to sell local utility JEA.
The sale of JEA has been a discussion point in City Hall off and on for the last year, and Dennis is concerned that Council will greenlight the sale down the road.
However, Council doesn’t share Dennis’ concern. His resolution (2018-593) couldn’t even get moved to the floor Tuesday, a second straight meeting that saw the bill held in cold storage.
Patience is wearing thin from Council allies of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, a Dennis nemesis back when the Councilman was a committee chair months back.
Dennis had pushed similar legislation to the same effect once this year already, and the distraught Democrat dropped science on the silent committee after the non-movement.
“It’s not going away,” Dennis said two weeks prior. “I truly believe that we will be in a better position if this Council votes this resolution up.”
Dennis also cited the issues with the Plant Vogtle development, which JEA entered into in 2008 and has since come to see as a financial albatross. The utility was thwarted last month in efforts to get out of the deal, and since that discussion, the city’s credit has been downgraded by Moody’s Investor Services.
“Dennis has indicated that if we withdraw this bill, he will refile it,” said Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who advised that “these bills can be deferred by the chair and never end up on the agenda for discussion.”
Dennis was allowed a “very brief comment” by Chair Greg Anderson Tuesday, in which he said he was disappointed that Boyer advised him how to kill the bill.
Dennis vowed to bring the JEA sale discussion up in subsequent committee meetings, and warned first-term Council members that this would be an election issue for them in 2019.
For Dennis, a potential mayoral candidate in 2019, this represents another setback.
For the Jacksonville City Council, this is business as usual.
Lenny Curry calls the shots. And Garrett Dennis is not Lenny Curry.
Jacksonville political veteran Matt Carlucci, a Republican running for City Council in At Large Group 4, was the first candidate in the 2019 cycle to clear $250,000 raised.
He did that by the end of March, a signal that Carlucci — a former Mayoral candidate, a previous member of the Council, and most recently, the head of the Florida Commission on Ethics — would not be outraised.
Carlucci has put the fundraising on the backburner, and has turned to pushing endorsements from prominent politicians of his generation.
The latest in what will be a long list: former two-term Mayor John Delaney, whose tenure had overlap with that of Carlucci.
“Matt’s character and integrity are deep in his core. He knows how to bring people together to make great things happen for the city we both love. He understands that Jacksonville is at its best when we are together,” said Delaney.
Delaney’s endorsement follows that of another former two-term mayor, Democrat Jake Godbold, and such plaudits will only augment a sense of inevitability for Carlucci’s return to the Council dais. Especially given that the candidate has almost a quarter-million dollars on hand.
His opponents have thus far not managed impressive fundraising. Through the end of September, Republicans Harold McCart and Don Redman have $21,000 and $12,000 on hand respectively. Newly filed Democrat Alexander Watkins has yet to report any receipts.
The four way race may ensure a May runoff after the March first election; thus far, however, one candidate has most of the juice.
The Carlucci race is the most extreme example of a trend in Council races, one of deep fundraising disparities as the election nears, as end-of-September bookkeeping reveals.
In District 2, incumbent Republican Al Ferraro has nearly $63,000 on hand; his two opponents have raised under $500 between them.
In District 5, Republican LeAnna Cumber has about $177,000 on hand. Her one Democratic opponent, James Jacobs, has languished with under $500 on hand for months.
In District 7, incumbent “Curry-crat” Reggie Gaffney has over $56,000 on hand, more money than his six opponents have raised between them. District 8 sees Democrat Tameka Gaines Holly likewise with more on hand than her 11 opponents have raised.
In At Large Group 4, Republican Ron Salem has nearly $174,000 on hand; Democrat Darren Mason has $745.
And in AL-5, incumbent Republican Sam Newby has $27,000 on hand, with Democrats Niki Brunson and Chad McIntyre with just over $4,000 between them (all of it in McIntyre’s account).
Some candidates have bankrolls and no competition at all.
District 4 incumbent Republican Scott Wilson has $21,900 on hand. Danny Becton, another incumbent Republican, has over $87,000 on hand for his return bid. District 13 Republican Rory Diamond has over $117,000 banked. And AL-3 Democrat Tommy Hazouri has no competition and his own six-figure bankroll.
On Monday, Northside Jacksonville’s A. Philip Randolph Career Academies saw Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry receive the U.S. Ambassador from the UAE, Yousef Al-Otaiba.
Money was on the line. $2.775 million, to be exact (part of a $10 million grant to be divided between several cities hit hardest by Hurricane Irma.)
Indeed, portions of this grant have already been delivered to Florida, with Collier County receiving its $2.7 million cut in August.
While local leaders appreciate revenue, there is a parallel story to the check: the UAE’s distressing and worsening human rights record.
The UAE has made a longstanding practice of storm relief, and there are those who believe it is a distraction from the regime’s human rights record, which is in keeping with the non-Democratic states of the Middle East.
Human Rights Watch spotlights imprisonment of political dissidents and a “sustained assault on freedom of expression and association since 2011,” which includes the death penalty for people who are determined to have worked to “undermine national unity or social peace.”
Definitions for that are subjective.
The UAE also actively participates in the ongoing war in Yemen, a proxy battle between the Saudis and Iran; its role, on the Saudi side, includes helming counterterrorism ops and running detention centers.
Furthermore, HRW charges the UAE with detaining and disappearing political prisoners (similarly to the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after a visit to a Saudi consulate this month), exploiting migrant labor, and systemic discrimination against women (facilitated by Sharia Law).
In the context of an erosion of human rights backdropped against a wave of post-storm generosity, we asked the Ambassador and the Mayor if such donations were intended to gloss over a record not in accordance with the mores of liberal democracies.
When we asked about the imprisoned political dissident Ahmed Mansoor, locked up as of this writing for 10 years for tweeting criticisms of the regime, the Ambassador smiled.
“We’re here to talk about our gifts to Jacksonville,” Al-Otaiba asserted. “If you want to ask me a question about what our laws are, we’re happy to address that. But that’s not why we’re here today.”
Curry spotlighted the “two-million dollars, invested in vulnerable populations in Jacksonville.”
Regarding “foreign policy,” Curry said “there’s experts in Washington, elected leaders in Washington who handle our foreign policy,” before pivoting to thank the Ambassador once more.
Applause filled the room, followed by stern looks from the Ambassador’s handlers, and a conversation with a plainclothes member of law enforcement who questioned whether this reporter was a real member of the media.
From there, Curry and Al-Otaiba toured the school. Media was invited along until the two went through a door, at which point reporters and cameramen were told to wait for a post-event availability.
Time passed, and three SUVs (two attached to the Ambassador, and another for the Mayor) departed the premises.
The money will be used for various expenditures, including computer labs for Raines and Ribault High Schools, restoration of a local park, purchase of mobile medical units, with approximately $1.45 million going to projects in the Ken Knight Road area, which was among the slowest in the city to recover from Irma.
That committee, chaired by former Florida Democratic Party chair and current U.S. Sugar and Florida Power and Light lobbyist Screven Watson, gave to Polson as part of a round of donations to the Democratic Party and a political committee associated with Democratic CFO hopeful Jeremy Ring.
The interesting part of the donation to Polson and other Democrats was that it was delivered the same month the committee got $75,000 of seed money from Floridians for a Stronger Democracy, That committee is chaired by Ryan Tysonof the traditionally Republican-leaning Associated Industries of Florida.
In addition to the nearly $36,000 in the campaign account, Polson has nearly $64,000 in the committee cash box. Polson has been spending heavily on television, running a second ad this week spotlighting Republican Duggan’s career as a lobbyist. With the ability and willingness to self-finance, Polson will undoubtedly be spending until the end.
And she will have to spend that $100,000 to keep pace with establishment favorite Wyman Duggan, who rode a raft of endorsements and multiple ads featuring Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to a win with 40 percent of the vote in a three-way primary.
Over the past three weeks, Duggan has brought in $76,500 in hard money, pushing him near parity with $85,000 on hand.
Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, Duggan raised $10,850 to his campaign account, bringing that total to nearly $67,000 on hand.
Duggan also has roughly $18,000 in his political committee, though with no donations in the latest reporting period.
Of the new money raised, $600 came from ZIP codes in HD 15. Among the donors from outside the district: the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, the Realtors PAC, and Gulf Coast Health Care, a nursing home in Pensacola.
Already, Duggan has benefited from over $100,000 air support from the Republican Party of Florida, which has funded attack ads, including a bristling spot associating Polson with drum circles, flag burners, and other elements of The Resistance.
The district has a slight Democratic registration edge, and that’s reflected in the polls we have heard about.
An internal Polson poll from SEA Polling and Strategic Design a couple of weeks back showed Duggan up two points (41-39) in what Democrats see as a swing district. There are polls, we are told by Republican operatives not aligned with Duggan, that also have Polson up.
The seat did go for Donald Trump two years ago, though Democrats haven’t fielded a candidate in HD 15 since it was redrawn ahead of the 2012 elections, so its lean in down-ballot races hasn’t been tested.
Clay Yarborough, running for re-election in Southside Jacksonville’s Republican-plurality House District 12, likewise had modest fundraising ($3,100 in the last week) and bigger spending ($9,043) as the election approaches. He has $98,000 on hand.
Democrat Tim Yost raised $1,258 during the same period, and carries $9,000 into the final stretch of the campaign.
Turning to House District 16, State Rep. Jason Fischer, first-term Republican, has had a consistent cash lead over Democrat Ken Organes.
Fischer did not fundraise between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5. Fischer had nearly $108,000 in his campaign account, and under $5,000 in the account of his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville.
Organes, meanwhile, brought in $1,225 over the same period, and has just over $26,500 on hand.
These candidates will be fundraising heavily until the end.
Polson has nearly $100,000 on hand, even after heavy television buys and engaging a full campaign staff. She’s ahead of Duggan, who has just $77,000 on hand.
Each campaign is getting help from its respective state party, and both sides feel confident enough to endlessly trash talk the other side’s operation.
Polson has structural advantages, such as the ability to self-finance and to network with regional and national players in the Democratic Party, that the other Democrats running for berths to Tallahassee do not.
Her district is also plurality Democrat, and the race is tight, according to polls.
Curry, a former chair of the state GOP, is now nearing $3 million on hand and $3.5 million raised, with plenty of time to raise more before the March 2019 first election (a blanket primary).
The committee has $2,415,000 on hand of the $2,928,000 it has raised. The campaign account has over $440,000 of the $455,330 raised.
The biggest checks, by and large, came from historically reliable sources.
The Petway family and its insurance company, U.S. Assure, combined for $150,000. J.B. Coxwell invested $75,000 more into the effort. The Jacksonville Kennel Club offered $50,000, as did Frederick Sontag. Jaguars owner Shad Khan, former owner Wayne Weaver, and charter school magnate Gary Chartrand donated at the $25,000 level.
Curry currently lacks much in the way of competition. His five March opponents have raised under $3,000 between them.
If no candidate finishes above 50.0001 percent, there will be a May runoff in the general election.
While Jacksonville City Councilors Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis are both mulling runs for the office, neither has floated concrete plans. Qualifying is in January, so the two have until then for further contemplation.
As poet, novelist and pop culture icon William S. Burroughs once noted: “Control needs control to control.”
That observation holds in all hierarchical structures, especially politics, and particularly after voting begins.
In a typically Republican area like Northeast Florida, recent history shows it’s been rare to see so many competitive races as we are seeing this year on the November general election ballot.
Democrats are fielding candidates — serious ones — in unlikely places. And whether they can win or not, it’s worth noting that they are competing and signaling that there are no giveaway offices. Not anymore at least.
While it’s not likely that Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, or Clay Yarborough will be leaving office anytime soon, the fact that Democrats are playing matters.
Also crucial down the stretch: Control over narratives.
The Ron DeSantis for Governor campaign has an increasingly Jacksonville flavor. Operative Tim Baker came aboard in a senior role, joining recently hired campaign manager Susie Wiles.
Baker and Wiles (as well as the rest of the team) will win or lose based on how effective they are when it comes to defining Andrew Gillum as just another Democratic candidate in a state where most poll stories have headlines of “dead heat” or “too close to call.”
Republicans have controlled narratives in this region for generations. To maintain control of the process, they will have to continue writing the script.
Baker joins DeSantis campaign
With four weeks before the primaries, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis brought on yet another seasoned hand for his campaign’s stretch run.
Florida Politics learned Monday evening that operative Baker joined the campaign in a senior leadership role, offering strategic and political guidance.
Baker, one of a series of staff moves in DeSantis World that included bringing on another op with a Jacksonville portfolio in campaign manager Susie Wiles, asserted that the campaign is “starting to hit stride” and “we are all working like crazy.”
Baker’s skill: targeting voters and moving them.
Recent campaigns have seen specific appeals made to medium-propensity voters, to female homeowners between the ages of 35 and 46, and to other blocs of voters, where support could be firmed up and maximized.
One can already see evidence of such appeals in the DeSantis campaign, which smartly and in a timely fashion went up on TV last week to pillory Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for botched storm response after 2016’s Hurricane Hermine.
Such ads can be seen as part of a larger strategy to define Gillum in the “traditional major party candidate” way. Baker notes that Gillum emerged unscathed from an oppo-free Democratic primary, while DeSantis was “pounded in the primary,” as support from President Donald Trump drove a narrative that went well beyond Florida borders.
The choice, Baker believes, will come down to one of “leadership” (DeSantis) versus a “feel-good choice without substance.”
Clark backs Soderberg
No real surprise here, but former Clinton Administration alum Nancy Soderberg picked up an endorsement in her Congressional race from former 4-star general and 2004 presidential candidate Wes Clark.
“I worked closely with Nancy when she was on the National Security Council and U.N., and I’ve watched her defend American interests around the globe. She has fiercely fought for our values; building peace in the Balkans, forging a cease-fire in Northern Ireland, standing up to terrorists, and so much more,” Clark said.
The Clark endorsement was part of a raft of military endorsements for the Democrat running to replace DeSantis in Congress. The nods from two 4-Star Generals, three Lieutenant Generals, one Brigadier General, one Colonel, one Captain and three Rear Admirals “highlight the respect Nancy Soderberg earned from leaders in our military over her decades of work safeguarding our national security,” asserted a media release.
Soderberg is up against Mike Waltz in the general election in the Daytona-centric district that nonetheless has a lot of Jacksonville flavor in the campaign, with donors and interests in the 904 monitoring this swingy contest.
Among the donors on the committee side: Florida Blue and the Florida Pharmacist Political Committee.
The campaign account donors included Southern Gardens Citrus, U.S. Sugar, and Comcast.
Bean has $89,908 in the committee account and $107,567 in the campaign account, giving him $197,475 to work with during the campaign stretch run.
Bean maintains comfortable leads over his opponents. Democrat Billee Bussard has $6,558 on hand after raising $5,760 in the same two-week period. Libertarian Joanna Tavares does not fundraise and has roughly $40 on hand.
The district is nearly half Republican. With just over 360,381 registered voters, 174,580 Republicans and 100,307 Democrats call SD 4 home. The remaining voters are either NPA or third party, including 1,466 registered Libertarians.
Bean last faced a competitive general election in 2012, when he defeated former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg 62 percent to 38 percent.
Byrd flies high
Freshman Jacksonville-area Republican state Rep. Cord Byrd continued to maintain strong cash leads over his Democratic challenger as September closed.
Byrd, whose majority-Republican House District 11 includes coastal Duval and all of Nassau County, brought in $8,100 of new money between Sept. 15 and 28, pushing his campaign account over $49,000 on hand. Comcast and Duke Energy PAC were among the $1,000 donors.
Byrd also has over $10,000 in his 1845 political committee.
His general election opponent, Nathcelly Rohrbaugh, mostly kept pace with Byrd in late September receipts, bringing in $4,442 of new money, pushing his campaign account over $16,000 on hand.
Labor money, including from a Sheet Metal Workers local and the North Florida Central Labor Council, added to Rohrbaugh’s haul.
No bitter pills for Yarborough
First-term Jacksonville-area Republican state Rep. Yarborough continued to maintain a healthy cash lead over his Democratic challenger as September ended.
Yarborough, running in Southside Jacksonville’s Republican-plurality House District 12, brought in $6,000 between Sept. 15 and 28.
Of that haul, $4,000 came from the biggest companies in Big Pharma: Eli Lilly, Bristol Myers Squibb, Pfizer and AstraZeneca all cut the Arlington Republican checks.
All told, he has raised $171,225, with $103,918 of that on hand.
Yarborough faces Democrat Tim Yost, who took in $610 during the same period. All told, Yost has $11,225 on hand of $17,558 raised.
Yarborough made news last week for becoming the regional head of the Yes on 3 campaign, designed to make expansions of casino gambling contingent on citizen referendums.
Polson seeks debate
The general election race to replace outgoing state Rep. Jay Fant in Jacksonville’s House District 15 is beginning to heat up, with a pattern established last week.
Democrat Tracye Polson is determined to push back against what she sees as distortions of narrative and distractions from the campaign of Republican opponent Wyman Duggan.
One such example: challenging Duggan to debate, in the wake of a pyrotechnic attack ad that linked Polson to Resistance protesters, with stock footage of a flag burner catching the Democrat’s ire.
The ad said Polson is “with them, not with us.”
In that context, Florida Politics has learned of the second line of attack being mulled by the Duggan campaign, one focusing on Polson being a recent arrival to House District 15, a group of deep-rooted communities ranging from Riverside, Avondale, and Ortega to the more bucolic stretches of Jacksonville’s Westside.
The contrast would be implicit, between the deeply rooted Duggan and Polson, a candidate who moved to the district much more recently, according to voter registration records.
Polson registered in HD 15 in November 2016, records show. Before that, she was a registered voter in St. Johns County.
We asked Polson about this potential issue, and she framed it as yet another distraction put forth by the Republican campaign to distract from his career as a lobbyist.
Duggan, meanwhile, is starting to rebuild his campaign war chest, raising more than $56,000 between Sept. 15 and 28 between his campaign account and that of his political committee.
All told, he has roughly $82,000 on hand, a number that is still behind the Polson campaign, which had as of its most recent campaign account and committee filings approximately $123,036 on hand after having raised and self-financed about $125,000 during the same period.
Polson is spending big on television, and her ability to finance her campaign has gotten her into the game. The next four weeks will show if her campaign can go toe to toe with a Republican machine with deep tentacles into GOP power structures in Jacksonville and Tallahassee both.
Overton builds cash edge
As September ended, a familiar narrative continued.
The latest filings to the Duval County Supervisor of Elections run through Sept. 28.
Overton (a former City Councilman and Property Appraiser) now has over $43,000 on hand after raising $16,034 in the two weeks leading up to the 28th.
Among the latest donors: Peter Rummell, the Jacksonville developer closely aligned with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry; Hans Tanzler; and a couple of entities associated with Jacksonville Landing developer Toney Sleiman, currently feuding with Mayor Curry.
Jones was less productive from Sept. 15 to 28, raising just $3,835 and giving her nearly $20,000 on hand. Prominent backers include the AFSCME union and local trial lawyer Wayne Hogan.
Democrats enjoy a registration advantage in Duval County. Of the just over 600,000 registered voters, 244,542 are Democrats, compared to 219,850 Republicans.
However, that advantage doesn’t translate to wins in citywide races. All constitutional officers in Duval County are currently Republicans.
DeFoor stretches cash lead
In the race to succeed Republican Jim Love on the Jacksonville City Council, Love’s fellow Republican Randy DeFoor expanded her cash on hand lead after September receipts.
But in what could be a preview of a runoff election, Democrat Sunny Gettinger is keeping pace.
DeFoor brought in $10,050 of new money to the campaign account, and an additional $5,000 to her political committee.
First Coast Energy was the big donor this cycle; its CEO Aubrey Edge is a supporter of Mayor Lenny Curry, and DeFoor is aligned with that political operation.
Gettinger, meanwhile, saw declining receipts for the fourth straight month. Her September haul of $4,245 was the slowest month of her campaign, giving her over $96,000 on hand.
Her key donors last month included connected local businessman Walt Bussells and Jon Heymann, the longtime leader of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission.
DeFoor and Gettinger are better positioned financially than the two male candidates in the race, who have yet to report September numbers.
Republican Henry Mooneyhan had roughly $12,000 on hand at the end of August. Democrat Jimmy Peluso had approximately $36,000 at his disposal.
Jacksonville municipal races see a first election in March. If no one takes a majority in that blanket primary, the top two finishers move on, regardless of party, to the May general election.
Vogtle sparks Moody’s downgrade
Moody’s downgraded $2.1 billion of Jacksonville debt, pinning a negative outlook on issues resulting from the city’s misadventures with utility JEA.
At the root of it all: the still-under-construction Plant Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, from which the city committed to buying power in 2008, and as of late wanted out of the deal, citing conditions ranging from flat revenue streams, escalating costs to getting cheaper power elsewhere.
JEA agreed to bankroll 41 percent of MEAG’s share for 20 years. However, the utility and the city have groused of late.
And now the credit rating agencies are taking notice.
“The downgrade of the city’s debt reflects our concurrent downgrade of JEA’s electric, water and sewer and District Energy System utility debt ratings,” Moody’s contends.
Affected were a series of bonds, spanning a spectrum of city expenditures.
Jacksonville’s issuer rating dropped to A2 from Aa2, Special Revenue Non Ad Valorem Covenant bonds to A3 from Aa3, Better Jacksonville Sales Tax Revenue bonds to A2 from A1, Capital Projects bonds to A2 from Aa3, Excise Taxes Revenue bonds to A2 from Aa2, Capital Improvement bonds to A2 from Aa3 and Transportation bonds to A2 from A1.
At issue: “The city’s participation as a plaintiff in litigation with JEA, a component unit of the city, against Municipal Energy Authority of Georgia (MEAG), in which JEA and the city are seeking to have a Florida state court invalidate a ‘take-or-pay’ power contract between JEA and MEAG.”
The DOJ Civil Rights division wrote city officials, noting that the city had fulfilled the terms of its voluntary, pre-litigation Project Civic Access agreement.
The agreement, per a 2013 post by the Justice Department, was wide-ranging:
“During the compliance review, the Department reviewed 64 of the city’s facilities. The agreement requires the city to correct deficiencies identified at the 64 facilities and requires Jacksonville to review and correct identified deficiencies at hundreds of additional facilities.”
Those facilities had all been built or modified since 1992, and included libraries, community and senior centers, a boat ramp, fire stations, athletic fields and sports complexes, City Hall, parks, the Jacksonville Zoo, detention and corrections facilities, parking garages and polling places.
The city had to improve accessibility, ranging from parking to drinking fountains.
Efforts for Braille and sign-language translations and translators likewise were mandated. Barriers at polling places and to emergency services similarly had to be removed, and sidewalks and other public infrastructure required work also.
JAXPORT nabs major ocean carrier
JAXPORT is adding Zim Integrated Shipping Services, the world’s 11th largest ocean carrier.
First reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the Israel-based company will come to Jacksonville as the vessel operator for 2M, among the largest vessel-sharing alliances in the world.
The additions will bring containers from North Asia through JAXPORT, which has recently focused on Asian container imports, with an average annual growth of 21 percent over the past five years.
Zim’s entry into the Jacksonville market will further diversify JAXPORT ocean carriers and boost its growing container business. Container volumes year-to-date are up 28 percent over last year, and volumes handled by JAXPORT in July and August were the highest in the port authority’s history for the same time frame.
Existing ocean carriers also increased their average capacity at Jaxport by almost 13 percent in August, the Journal noted.
Jacksonville as a port-of-call is another new step Zim, an independent carrier facing challenges in the ocean carrier industry. Zim and other ocean carriers have often netted quarterly losses in the face of oversupply — despite increased volume and revenue increases — as well as declining rates and rising costs.
On October 3, Zim USA President George Goldman explained to the Jacksonville Propeller Club that the world’s top 11 carriers lost money 25 out of the last 42 quarters.
“That’s not really sustainable,” Goldman warned, adding that the industry has gone through several acquisitions, mergers and bankruptcies.
Goldman admitted that much of the industry’s operational challenges are self-inflicted, especially when it came to oversupply. He called the industry collectively “dumber than a bag of rocks.”
“Individually, we’re pretty smart people,” Goldman added. “The problem is when we get together … Without a doubt, we are our own worst enemies.”
Zoo celebrates endangered gorilla birth
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens announced a new addition — its 22-year-old, Western lowland gorilla Kumbuka has given birth to a healthy infant.
The 4.8-pound female was born Friday, Sept. 28 at 1:30 p.m.
Kumbuka’s initial maternal behavior toward the baby was perfect and healthy, Zoo officials said. However, Kumbuka was cradling and carrying the youngster improperly — similar to the way she behaved before she lost two previous offspring at another zoo.
Zoo staffers believe Kumbuka’s hearing disability may prevent her from detecting when her youngsters are in distress. Faced with a life-threatening situation, the staff decided to remove Kumbuka’s baby — for short-term assisted rearing by gorilla-care staff.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Gorilla SSP (Species Survival Plan) group supports the decision.
The Gorilla SSP recommended she join the Jacksonville Zoo troop to learn maternal behavior from the other mother gorillas and participate in a maternal training program.
After Kumbuca’s arrival in 2014, Jacksonville gorilla care staff began suspecting she might be hearing-impaired. By 2017, her condition was confirmed through consultation with audiologists from Nemours Children’s Specialty Care.
The diagnosis provided valuable for developing a specific birth plan to improve Kumbuka’s chances for maternal success. Throughout Kumbuka’s pregnancy, keepers worked to teach her the correct way to position an infant — as well as other essential maternal skill — while also preparing for possible intervention, if necessary.
The training will continue as keepers show the proper way to hold and carry the infant. Kumbuka is the most genetically valuable female in the Gorilla Species Survival Plan (SSP), and pairing with Jacksonville’s silverback Lash, she conceived in early February 2018. Lash, 42, was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and came to the Jacksonville Zoo in Gardens in 1998.
The new infant is very important to the entire North American program, which relies upon cooperative pairings of gorillas already in human care. Wild gorillas are no longer captured for zoos.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens recently opened the newly-renovated home for the great apes, African Forest. The $9.5 million renovation features a 50-foot-tall kapok tree that animals can climb and swing on, a mixed-species exhibit, a trail system that allows the animals to roam the area as they choose, and many more wellness-inspired design elements.
The infant gorilla is not yet named.
Jaguars Job One
As ESPN’s Michael DiRocco notes, the Jaguars defense faces a specific challenge against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday: stop Ezekiel Elliott.
After falling to the Kansas City Chiefs offense (led by Patrick Mahomes) and loaded with playmakers, the Jaguars face a Cowboys offense led by running back Elliott, which ranks near last in the NFL for passing.
That relieves the pressure just a bit. And as DiRocco writes, “It’s going to be an old-school, smash-mouth kind of game.”
“The New York [Giants] week got us ready for this week in the sense of saying they’re going to try to go through the running back,” Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith told ESPN. “We know the offense flows through the running back. They’re going to try to get him going. We’ve just got to go out and execute and play.”
Elliott, who coach Doug Marrone calls “probably the best running back in the league,” leads the league rushing with 480 yards and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He also leads the Cowboys in receptions (22), and his 635 yards of total offense accounts for 41 percent of the Cowboys’ total yards.
That is despite turning in his worst performance of the season Sunday: 54 yards on 20 carries in the Cowboys’ 19-16 overtime loss to Houston.
“Great out of the backfield, great hands, great in space,” Marrone continued. “There’s probably not a run that he can’t do. He can run people over. He can run by them. I’ve seen him run over them. He has a great stiff arm.
“Can’t say enough good things about the guy.” The Jaguars’ run defense is ranked No. 14 (101.2 yards per game), allowing the Chiefs to rush for 126 yards. Nevertheless, the Cowboys’ pass game is not even close to what the Chiefs brought to Jacksonville. In nine of the last 13 games, QB Dak Prescott passed fewer than 200 yards, without a touchdown pass in seven of those games.
For the Jaguars, stopping the run is a top priority, but handling Prescott is not far behind, mainly due to his mobility.
Prescott is one of eight quarterbacks who rushed more than 100 yards this season (with 121).
Bottom line: The Jaguars success this week will rest on how they deal with Elliott.