Jax Archives - Florida Politics

Elizabeth Fetterhoff clings to 61-vote lead after hand recount

With a manual recount complete, Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff maintained her narrow edge over Democrat Patrick Henry is Florida House District 26.

Volusia County elections officials report the manual recount concluded, and Fetterhoff ultimately received 30,610 votes to the Democratic incumbent’s 30,549, an 61-vote lead, or 0.1 percent of votes cast.

The count remains close enough that a dispute over absentee ballots rejected for bad signatures could still impact totals.

And Volusia County has not yet reported a tabulation of military and overseas votes, which were allowed to arrive in Florida elections offices as late as 10 days after the election. While that deadline has passed, only Franklin County thus far ahs tabulated those votes.

The race was one of six state elections requiring a manual recount this year. State law mandates a machine recount of votes when less than a 0.5 percent margin separates candidates. A manual recount of under- and overvotes occurs if m

The original tabulation of votes in HD 26 showed Fetterhoff leading by 59 votes, with Fetterhoff getting 30,591 to Henry’s 30,352.

The manual recount closed that gap to 54 votes, with Fetterhoff at 30,599 and Henry at 30,545.

But the manual recount found more votes for Fetterhoff than Henry, allowing the Republican to surge to her 61-vote margin now.

Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis released the final manual Thursday evening.

But Lewis told the Daytona Beach radio station WNDB she must wait until at least until 5 p.m. today to allow any voters concerned about their absentee ballots getting rejected to contact the elections office.

“We initially mailed out a letter containing an affidavit to these voters giving them the opportunity to correct their signature,” Lewis said. “The voter simply needed to return the signed affidavit to cure their ballot.”

Presuming the lead holds, Fetterhoff’s win will mean Volusia County’s entire Florida House delegation will be made up of Republicans, according to WNDB.

Jacksonville Bold for 11.16.18 — A very good year.

A cottage industry among Northeast Florida political observers this year has revolved around the same question it did in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Did Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry go too far?

In 2015, he capsized a popular Mayor. In 2016, he stumped for President Donald Trump and got pension reform through (which ticked off the left). In 2017, he allowed LGBT rights to become law (which ticked off the hard right).

The question asked almost every election cycle: “Is Lenny Curry going too far?”

And in 2018? Curry brought the political operation inside the building, with Brian Hughes taking over as chief of staff.

Critics, as Curry might say, chirped. But a year into it, there has been little in the way of meaningful pushback against his administration’s agenda.

There are fewer than 60 days remaining until the end of qualifying. If a serious candidate does not file, one wonders how credible complaints about the administration will be going forward.

Given the realities of Curry’s political operation, a full-spectrum dominance machine that includes enforcement of the City Council, an outside political machine of the sort previously unseen locally, and opposition that hasn’t marshaled visible support, as of yet, one wonders why the opposition campaign hasn’t been launched yet.

How Waltz beat the national left

Florida elections saw in many respects a blue wave, as witnessed by three of the five state-level races on the ballot triggering recounts.

However, a 50/50 tendency doesn’t extend to every contested race. Exhibit A: Florida’s 6th Congressional District, the former fiefdom of soon-to-be Governor-elect Ron DeSantis.

Republican Mike Waltz, a Trump-endorsed former Green Beret and counterterrorism adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defeated Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations.

Despite an expensive Democratic campaign, Mike Waltz mostly held previous GOP margins.

Despite Soderberg spending over $3 million directly and having even more than that come in from Michael Bloomberg and other national Democrats, despite all of the talk of a blue wave, Soderberg wasn’t able to close the deal. She went down 56 percent to 44 percent, losing in all four counties in the district.

And her campaign didn’t seem to see it coming.

Soderberg ran as a moderate Democrat in a district that the previous Democratic candidate and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton each lost by 15+ points in 2016.

Bloomberg‘s Independence USA PAC spent $3 million of its own. Fundraising was a definite prerequisite in this Daytona-centered district, which abuts the Jacksonville media market to the north and the Orlando market to the west.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before …

Per the News Service of Florida: “A federal appeals court has rescheduled a hearing in a challenge filed by former Congresswoman Corrine Brown after she was convicted in a charity scam. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week scheduled the arguments Feb. 1 in Atlanta, according to an online docket.”

Corrine Brown again revisits the ‘Holy Ghost’ issue of her trial.

This was pushed back from December and rehashes what may seem to be an esoteric claim from the original trial: “In the appeal, Brown contends that a juror was improperly dismissed from her trial. The dismissal came after the juror made statements such as the ‘Holy Ghost’ told him Brown was not guilty. Prosecutors, however, argue a district judge acted properly in replacing the juror with an alternate and disputed that the decision violated religious rights.”

Brown’s defense tried and failed to make the discharged juror an issue during her original trial. Her strategy seems to be doubling down, though it’s uncertain what has changed but the venue.

Smooth sailing for NE FL

For a second straight Legislative Session, a Clay County Republican will be key to the budget process.

Northeast Florida is sailing smoothly for Travis Cummings and Speaker Jose Oliva.

Just as Sen. Rob Bradley chaired Senate Appropriations in 2018, chairing the powerful Appropriations Committee is state Republican Rep. Travis Cummings, of Orange Park.

Cummings replaces former House budget chair Carlos Trujillo, who left the Legislature after being appointed Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Like incoming Speaker Jose Oliva, a Republican from Hialeah, Cummings was an early supporter of presumed Governor-elect DeSantis.

For DeSantis loyalists and Northeast Florida partisans both, the Cummings appointment is good news.

He told us Friday that he was “excited and fortunate” to be chosen, noting that while Northeast Florida is “well-positioned,” he has a holistic view regarding money for school safety and the environment in what otherwise will be a “pretty tight budget year.”

Read more here.

Baker turnout boom

For those inside Jacksonville who wonder why DeSantis won and Andrew Gillum did not, it may be useful to look to the Baker County Press for insights.

Homegrown: MacClenny’s Chuck Brannan is headed west on I-10 to the state House.

The county had a 70 percent turnout for the 2018 election … the best midterm turnout in Baker history, a strong sign that the GOP campaign against “corruption” and “socialism” made a dent.

Baker also was able to get a favorite son to the state House: MacClenny’s Chuck Brannan, who will replace Elizabeth Porter in House District 10.

Baker trends deeply conservative. The GOP ticket won by 68 points or so, in race after race.

Even if the candidate wasn’t remotely competitive.

“GOP candidate for Congressional District 5 Virginia Fuller, a recent California transplant to Florida, won the county with 81.1 percent, though her opponent, Democratic incumbent Al Lawson, held a 34-point lead in the district stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, 67 percent to 33 percent.”

With Jacksonville’s leading Republican officeholders all in for the DeSantis campaign, October fundraising for their 2019 campaigns was on the back burner.

Lenny Curry and presumed Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis. (Image via Lindsey Kilbride/WJCT)

And why not? Though Jacksonville has a Democratic plurality, and statewide candidates Bill Nelson, Gillum, and Nikki Fried all won here, local Republicans have no reason to doubt their ability to hold serve based on campaign fundraising.

Mayor Curry raised nothing for his campaign account and a modest $75,500 for his “Jacksonville on the Rise” political committee. He has just under $3,000,000 on hand, and still awaits a candidate with any sort of fundraising traction to file (only NPA Connell Crooms has over $1,000 on hand).

Sheriff Mike Williams raised just $2,000 in October, with no money going into his political committee over the same period. It likely won’t matter: Williams, with roughly $440,000 on hand, is up against one candidate, Democrat Tony Cummings. Cummings’ campaign account is in the red.

Property appraiser Jerry Holland raised $5,290 in October, pushing him over $148,000 on hand. Democrat Kurt Kraft has been running for three years now, and has $150 on hand.

City Council races are characterized by a mixture of well-established trends and genuine question marks.

Read more here.

Not taking it for granted

Two new bills introduced to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening could, at least in theory, lead to the city returning a grant from the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE has used charitable donations to ingratiate itself with US institutions, winning hearts and minds.

Ordinance 2018-813 would return that $2.775 million grant. And Ordinance 2018-790 would appropriate $2.775 million from the city’s general fund, to replace what some critics are calling “blood money” from the totalitarian Middle Eastern regime.

Back in October, the United Arab Emirates gave Jacksonville $2.775 million toward post-Irma reconstruction. City Council voted the appropriation through without a hitch in the summer, but second thoughts clouded members (and potential 2019 mayoral candidates) Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis when they considered the UAE’s human rights record, deemed to be among the world’s worst.

The money is 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 Hurricane Irma.

Skilled labor shortage?

The Jacksonville Daily Record spotlights an issue years in the making, with no ready solution.

A shortage of skilled trades workers, one that started after the 2008 economic crash and has only been exacerbated in the decade since.

No solutions are in sight for a shortage of skilled trades workers.

“The trades over the last generation have been stereotyped as a second-class occupation,” one source said. “That’s starting to catch up to us, as we don’t have as many skilled laborers anymore.”

Candidates for Governor, including apparent winner DeSantis, spotlighted the needs for people to go into skilled trades.

It needs to happen soon: delays can last up to two months, asserted Bill Garrison, the executive officer of the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

Game over

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on adult arcades.

No more games. Jacksonville is suspending new adult arcades for six months.

The legislation cleared committees without opposition and landed on the consent agenda, with most of the 19-person legislative body listed as sponsors even before Tuesday’s meeting.

Ordinance 2018-680 bans any new permitting for so-called internet cafes, a bane to the existence of Jacksonville lawmakers.

These establishments are predominantly in areas of town that have socioeconomic challenges already, and Council members have sought to put the brakes on what has become a flourishing industry, albeit one of dubious moral value.

Arcades often are near churches, schools, daycares and homes, and the noise, traffic, and other associated activities concern people outside the industry.

Jacksonville’s municipal code, which often seems fragmentary, lacks “performance standards or criteria pertaining to adult arcades,” offering another potential justification for the moratorium.

UNF recognized for ‘engaged’ campus

Via news release: “In recognition of the University of North Florida’s commitment to campus-community engagement and public service, Florida Campus Compact recognized UNF as the Engaged Campus of the Year for 2018 for the State University System. This is the University’s second time receiving this award.”

Ospreys give back to the community every day.

UNF is receiving accolades for its community engagement, philanthropy.

The award “recognizes institutions that advance the purposes of higher education while improving community life and educating students for civil and social responsibility. This is the highest honor for campus-community engagement in Florida.”

“UNF consistently provides remarkable service to the greater Jacksonville area and beyond through its volunteering, philanthropy and community-based teaching and research,” said UNF President David Szymanski.

A staggering 94 percent of departments offer courses with these components, leading to 1 million hours of work on projects like the Adaptive Toys Project: “UNF engineering and physical therapy faculty and students work with the Brooks Pediatric Residency Program to design, fabricate and deliver custom assistive technology, like battery-powered toy cars, for kids with developmental disabilities to aid in mobility and independence at no cost to the families.”

No benches, no homeless problem

For one Jacksonville Beach City Councilman, solving the homeless problem is as simple as removing places for them to sit.

“In a recent city council meeting, Councilmember Keith Doherty said the homeless population is an issue,” reported Action News Jax.In the meeting notes, he said Gonzales Park had become a popular hangout spot for transients.”

Too many homeless people in parks, says a Jacksonville Beach Councilman.

The solution?

“Doherty suggested in the meeting removing the benches and shelters in hopes it would alleviate the homeless from sleeping on them. He also suggested moving the City’s Veterans Memorial to the park to attract more activity and keep the homeless away.”

Whether that will work or not is unknown. Jacksonville Beach’s homeless problem continues to increase.

Home prices up, lower end sees action

Despite a slight slowdown in the Northeast Florida housing market, the area continues a trend of strong sales, particularly with lower-end homes.

Jacksonville’s entire home market is still strong, but the real action is with low-end properties.

According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, homes spend an average of 64 days on the market year-to-date before the sale, a number 11 percent up from last year, as per a release from the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. Properties in the $150,000 and $199,999 range are spending the least amount of time on the market — 44 days on average — 24 percent faster than this time last year.

The number of homes on the market priced less than $199,999 have decreased over the past year — with those available under $149,999 down almost 14 percent. As with homes more than $199,999, inventory has increased.

The percentage of properties sold over list price has increased for properties valued at or below $199,999, the Journal writes. The percent of properties selling over the listing price that is valued at more than $199,999 has either decreased or remained equal over the past year.

Marketwide, sales prices are increasing. The median sales price was $221,000, an 8.8 percent increase compared to last year.

“We are pleased to see new listings being added to the market, but sales are taking place so steadily that a sustained and significant influx of properties is needed to turn the tide away from lower than normal inventory,” NEFAR President Ben Bates said in a release.

ZOOLights holiday fun

Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens launches its post-Thanksgiving holiday season celebration with the Seventh Annual ZOOLights event, beginning Dec. 7.

ZOOLights will feature thousands of LED lights, transforming the zoo into a winter wonderland of moving sculptures, lighted trees and animal silhouettes.

Guests can walk among lights strung throughout the Zoo and listening to holiday music and enjoy a unique view of ZOOLights by boarding the Zoo’s lighted train (the train only runs from the back of the Zoo to the front). There will also be carousel rides, the 4-D Theater, marshmallow roasting, and more activities for an extra charge.

Jacksonville Zoo becomes a winter wonderland of lights for the holidays.

The dates are Dec. 7—9 and Dec. 14 — Jan. 5 (Closed Christmas Day) Sunday — Thursday 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The Zoo closes at 5 p.m. and will reopen for ZOOLights at 6 p.m.

Prices are $10 for Non-Members; $8 for Zoo Members, with a special of $5 for Zoo Members, Dec. 17 — 20 only.

ZOOLights Value Tickets includes train rides, 4D Theater and Carousel (children 12 and under): $15 for Non-Members, $12 for Zoo Members.

For more information, visit JacksonvilleZoo.org.

Loss to Colts exposes Jags

As the Jacksonville Jaguars season began to go South, observers wondered how they would react. Were there sufficient leaders on the team that could carry them through rough patches?

Others feared that with the number of strong personalities in the locker room, infighting might lead to making a bad situation worse. There was hope that the trade of Dante Fowler Jr. to the Rams was a step that could help bring the team together.

The trade of Dante Fowler Jr. to the Rams was intended as a step in the right direction for the Jaguars. We will know on Sunday.

Alas, Sunday’s 29-26 loss in Indianapolis to the Colts officially sent the season into free fall. They have lost 5 games in a row and now sit at 3-6.

The last loss seemed especially hard to take, especially to a once-proud defensive unit. Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey must have been hearing from the fans as he lashed out on Twitter.

“When I’m gone from here, y’all gone miss me,” he tweeted. “I ain’t even trippin lol.”

He might have also reacted to some indirect criticism from Head Coach Doug Marrone very well. Marrone said after the game Ramsey (without mentioning his name) blew a coverage that led to a 53-yard touchdown play for the Colts.

Some questioned whether the entire Jaguars’ defense had already left, giving up all 29 Indianapolis points in the first half. The team made a spirited comeback, only to fall short at the end when Rashad Greene fumbled in the final two minutes with the team in field goal range.

A favorite target of the wrath of fans is quarterback Blake Bortles, but he threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The defense gave up similar numbers to Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck.

With the defense struggling, the last thing they need to see is the surging offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers will be in town Sunday, motivated by the two losses the Jaguars hung on them last year in Pittsburgh, including one in the playoffs.

Jaguars fans can only hope that somehow the 2017 version of the defensive unit can show up. Otherwise, look for a lot of points.

Long-range vision: Wyman Duggan sees House seat as more than a stepping stone

Jacksonville will send a new Republican to Tallahassee next session.

In the expensive and brutal race in House District 15, Republican Wyman Duggan defeated Democrat Tracye Polson 51 percent to 49 percent.

Polson spent heavily in an attempt to flip the seat previously held by Jay Fant, but ultimately fell short.

Duggan, a connected land-use lawyer backed by a wide swath of Jacksonville’s political establishment, is uniquely positioned to advocate for the city’s interests.

After all, he said, it’s an extension of what he has been doing all along, with well over a decade of board service and community service that has given him a ground-level perspective on the district’s, the city’s, and the region’s needs.

Also of note: Duggan’s familiarity with “how the legislative process works, both locally and in Tallahassee.”

He described himself as somebody who can “hit the ground running on day one, with a minimal learning curve, and be effective to help move our community forward.”

Despite being supported by Mayor Lenny Curry and other city leaders, he hasn’t (as of yet) been tabbed with championing a particular issue.

“There was never any discussion with anybody along those lines … for the most part, everybody I was endorsed by, I had a previous longstanding working relationship with,” Duggan said.

The calculus was simple: “We know who you are, we know that your heart is in the right place,” Duggan said.

Duggan and Brian Hughes, chief of staff for Curry, have had “preliminary discussions” about the upcoming Legislative Session. Expect that those discussions will ramp up after the organizational session.

The Northeast Florida region, meanwhile, is well-positioned: the Governor-elect is a Jacksonville guy, with Sen. Rob Bradley a point man in the Senate and Rep. Travis Cummings helming the Appropriations Committee in the House. As well, Rep. Paul Renner is expected to be Speaker in 2022, and it’s possible that Sen. Travis Hutson could lead the Senate caucus.

Duggan sees his role as important in that framework and has an eight-year plan to maximize it.

“For a long time, not so much in the last five years but the ten years before that, it always felt like Jacksonville was like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football,” Duggan said.

“The last four years,” Duggan added, “have really set the table for a renaissance in Jacksonville. An economic and political renaissance. It just feels like this city is really starting to be seen again as a destination, not a passthrough … an influential place that must be taken into account by state-level actors.”

For his part, Duggan recognizes that the district has seen flux in its representation, one that has limited the district from the prerogatives seniority ideally provides.

“It’s been a long time,” Duggan said, “since somebody’s done the whole eight years.”

Duggan sees the role as a “capstone of public service … an opportunity to serve Jacksonville, this region, and the district, and to pass the baton.”

The Renner speakership will benefit the region (recall that Renner came within two votes of representing HD 15 in the 2014 special election), and the next two years will see (assuming re-election at appropriate intervals) Duggan with a uniquely senior role in a delegation set for a total refresh in 2024.

An eight-year plan, in other words. And one necessary given the unique challenges ahead.

District 15, Duggan noted, is a collection of “three sub-districts,” with their own demographics and needs.

“It’s a very diverse district,” Duggan said. “What I have consistently heard from the voters on their doorsteps is they want to see more successful educational outcomes.”

Opinions vary, Duggan said, on what those outcomes look like.

Another issue of import that emerged after Hurricane Irma flooded Riverside and Avondale last year: infrastructure to mitigate those impacts.

Expect Duggan to pursue “state resources to help fix that problem.”

“We have a problem in these older, established neighborhoods, and I intend to seek state-level support to help address it. It is going to be a significant fix,” Duggan noted.

While recently built subdivisions performed as designed, historic neighborhoods fared more poorly.

Duggan hopes to be on committees that deal with transportation, infrastructure, economic development, noting a goal of bringing more vocational and workforce training back to junior high and high school — a fusion of economic development and educational goals.

“There’s a real opportunity there, a real need,” Duggan said. “I want to start that process. I recognize it won’t be all done at once.”

Duggan also expects to file a bill that will find a way to get more money, via a “trust fund” for a “pool of money” toward mental health treatment, and more details on that will be forthcoming.

“In addition, whatever we can do to create economic development opportunities in the district,” Duggan said, including Cecil Commerce Center.

Corrine Brown appeal pushed back to February

A federal appeals court will hear arguments in February in a challenge filed by former Congresswoman Corrine Brown after she was convicted on felony charges in a charity scam.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously said oral arguments are needed in the case and tentatively scheduled them for the week of Dec. 10 in Atlanta, according to an online docket.

However, that hearing has been pushed back.

Brown appealed to the Atlanta-based court after she was convicted last year on 18 felony counts and sentenced to five years in prison.

A former 12-term Democratic congresswoman from Jacksonville, Brown was convicted on fraud and tax charges related to her role in using contributions to the One Door for Education charity for personal expenses and events.

But in the appeal, Brown contends that a juror was improperly dismissed from her trial. The dismissal came after the juror made statements such as the “Holy Ghost” told him Brown was not guilty.

Prosecutors, however, argue a district judge acted properly in replacing the juror with an alternate and disputed that the decision violated religious rights.

Brown, who lost a re-election bid in 2016, is an inmate at the Coleman federal prison in Sumter County, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Jacksonville City Councilmember bristles over lack of JEA oversight

On Tuesday, Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Schellenberg, the liaison to local utility JEA, reiterated concerns about the Council’s lack of oversight over the power provider.

Schellenberg had told the Florida Times-Union of his frustrations with not being able to get a meeting with interim CEO Aaron Zahn until after the utility decided whether or not to make Zahn permanent.

The subject of that meeting: JEA’s ill-fated investment in the Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia, a deal that has seen delays, cost overruns, a thus-far thwarted attempt to get out of the deal, and credit-rating downgrades in some cases.

Schellenberg has sought to be more involved as a liaison than the JEA Board would seem to like, and his comments Tuesday reflected a long-simmering frustration.

“Because of some of their actions,” Schellenberg said, “some of the ratings agencies have downgraded our bonds going forward.”

“They have a selection committee going forward,” Schellenberg added, “and we’re not part of the conversation that impacts the biggest asset of City Hall.”

Schellenberg wanted to know what Plant Vogtle’s impact would be on electric bills, given cost overruns “driving the price up substantially.”

Schellenberg, who will be term-limited next year, seeks a “more transparent” discourse. However, it didn’t seem he was getting much backup.

Council President Aaron Bowman suggested the matter be discussed during Charter Review, which commences next year.

Councilman Bill Gulliford, a former JEA liaison in his own right who spent many months negotiating with the utility regarding its yearly contribution to the city budget, noted that JEA is an “independent authority” with the best possible information on its decision process.

“If we start intruding on the decision-making power of independent authorities,” the Beaches Republican said, “my concern is that our decisions may not be well-informed decisions.”

“I would caution this body in the future … go back and look at the original intent of making these bodies independent to [prevent] political manipulation,” Gulliford said.

Councilman John Crescimbeni, a termed-out, at-large Democrat, quipped that maybe a JEA Board member should be allowed to sit on the council dais in exchange for greater input into the utility’s workings.

“Maybe we can compromise,” Crescimbeni said. “It’s a two-way street.”

City Hall spent the better part of a year marinating in JEA drama, following what seemed to be a stalled push to privatize the publicly owned utility. Clearly, there’s more of the same to come.

No more games: Jacksonville imposes adult arcade moratorium

On Tuesday, the Jacksonville City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on adult arcades.

The legislation cleared committees without opposition and landed on the consent agenda, with a majority of the 19-person legislative body listed as sponsors even before Tuesday’s meeting.

Ordinance 2018-680 bans any new permitting for so-called internet cafes, a bane to the existence of Jacksonville lawmakers.

These establishments are predominately located in areas of town that have socioeconomic challenges already, and Council members have sought to put the brakes on what has become a flourishing industry, albeit one of dubious moral value.

Arcades often are near churches, schools, daycares and homes, and the noise, traffic, and other associated activities concern people outside the industry.

Jacksonville’s municipal code, which often seems fragmentary, lacks “performance standards or criteria pertaining to adult arcades,” offering another potential justification for the moratorium.

Per the Jacksonville Daily Record, 90 certificates of use have been issued, even as many more businesses operate without them.

 

’Blood money‘ reconsidered: UAE grant fight heads to Jacksonville City Council

Two new bills introduced to the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening could, at least in theory, lead to a grant to the city from the United Arab Emirates being returned.

Though if that happens, it’s over the heads of Mayor Lenny Curry and the Council President.

Ordinance 2018-813 would give back that $2.775 million grant.

And Ordinance 2018-790 would appropriate the same amount from the city’s general fund, to replace what some critics are calling “blood money” from the totalitarian Middle Eastern regime.

Back in October, the United Arab Emirates gave Jacksonville that money toward post-Hurricane Irma reconstruction.

City Council voted the appropriation through without a hitch in the summer, but second thoughts clouded members (and potential 2019 mayoral candidates) Anna Brosche and Garrett Dennis when they considered the UAE’s human rights record, deemed to be among the world’s worst.

City Council President Aaron Bowman, in a lengthy statement released Tuesday, thinks this attempted cure legislation is dead in the water.

Bowman charged Brosche and Dennis with “derogatory comments” at an August public notice meeting about the UAE.

“I also feel compelled to admonish the recent filing of legislation 2018-813. I see it as an attack on beliefs and religious freedoms. I want the residents of Jacksonville to understand that I do not support attacks on other faiths and ethnic populations. In my role as City Council President, there is no room for bias or prejudice. My expectation is that this legislation will quickly be defeated,” Bowman said.

“We are at a critical point in our world’s stability. We all must recognize diversity; respecting
differences in religion and culture. We must respect our friends and neighbors, locally and around the globe. I expect my fellow City Council members to research, inquire, and prepare when they vote on legislation. There is always an option to ask for a deferral if a City Council member feels he or she needs more time to evaluate or gather additional information,” Bowman added.

Noting that Brosche and Dennis voted for the legislation, Bowman added that to “come back after the fact and slander a highly respected ally of the United States is not acceptable.”

Neither Bowman nor Dennis mentioned the bill during agenda meeting. Councilwoman Brosche, involved in the recount, was excused from the meeting.

The UAE money is being used for various expenditures, including computer labs for Raines and Ribault High Schools, restoration of a local park, purchase of mobile medical units, with about $1.45 million going to projects in the Ken Knight Road area, which was among the slowest in the city to recover from Irma.

Money in the appropriations bill could go to the Duval County School Board.

Dennis, a roofing contractor who does business with the School Board, noted Tuesday that his company “has not and will not participate in any projects I have voted on as a council member.”

At last month’s meeting, Dennis noted potential national security impacts of taking the money. Brosche charged the Lenny Curry administration with a lack of transparency during the process, including punting on press conference questions about the posture of taking money from a country with a poor human rights record.

Recipients of the funding, including local non-profits, defended the move last month.

Cindy Funkhouser, whose Sulzbacher Center got grants for mobile medical units, said the UAE “is an ally of the United States. Has always been an ally of the United States.

“America gives aid all over the world, and nobody says they don’t have the right to give donations,” Funkhouser said, noting people could squawk all they want about American human rights issues.

Odds are long here for any movement: Brosche and Dennis are alone here, in terms of Council members, who are by and large yoked to the Mayor’s Office’s expansive policy agenda.

The Council President won’t do them any favors either.

October slump: Governor’s race chills local political fundraising in Jacksonville

With Jacksonville’s leading Republican officeholders all in for the Ron DeSantis campaign, October fundraising for their 2019 campaigns was on the back burner.

And why not? Though Jacksonville has a Democratic plurality, and statewide candidates Bill NelsonAndrew Gillum, and Nikki Fried all won here, local Republicans have no reason to doubt their ability to hold serve based on campaign fundraising.

Mayor Lenny Curry raised nothing for his campaign account and a modest $75,500 for his his “Jacksonville on the Rise” political committee. He has just under $3,000,000 on hand, and still awaits a candidate with any sort of fundraising traction to file (only NPA Connell Crooms has over $1,000 on hand).

Sheriff Mike Williams raised just $2,000 in October, with no money going into his political committee over the same period. It likely won’t matter: Williams, with roughly $440,000 on hand, is up against one candidate, Democrat Tony Cummings. Cummings’ campaign account is in the red.

Property appraiser Jerry Holland raised $5,290 in October, pushing him over $148,000 on hand. Democrat Kurt Kraft has been running for three years now, and has $150 on hand.

City Council races are characterized by a mixture of well-established trends and genuine question marks.

The candidate who will win the race to replace Republican Anna Brosche in AL-1 probably hasn’t filed yet. The two filed candidates, Jack Daniels and Christian Whitfield, have $115 and $1,190 respectively. Word is that District 10 Councilman Terrance Freeman may jump in here. He also is Republican, leaving an opening for a Democrat.

In AL-2, the fundraising has gone one way. Republican Ron Salem has $178,000 on hand; Democrat Darren Mason, just over $700.

In AL-3, former Mayor Tommy Hazouri, a Curry-crat, has over $115,000 on hand and no competition.

In AL-4, another political veteran (Republican Matt Carlucci) is sitting on a quarter-million dollars, as two Republicans and a Democrat languish far behind.

And in AL-5, incumbent Republican Sam Newby carries just over $31,000 out of October, putting him ahead of Democrat Chad McIntyre and NPA Niki Brunson.

In Arlington’s Council District 1, incumbent Democrat Joyce Morgan expanded her cash on hand lead (~$21,800 to $14,700) over Republican Bill Bishop. Morgan got more GOP money this cycle, from developer and Lenny Curry ally John Rood.

In Council District 2, incumbent Republican Al Ferraro added $6,600 to his campaign account; he has roughly $63,000 on hand. Ferraro faces real competition: Democrat Carson Tranquille, a former zone commander for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and a Leadership Jacksonville alum. Tranquille has just over $11,000 on hand, $10,000 of it self-funded.

In Southside’s CD 3 and 4, incumbent Republicans Aaron Bowman and Scott Wilson face no competition. Bowman, the Council President, had yet to report fundraising at publication time; Wilson raised nothing in October and has roughly $22,000 on hand.

Republican LeAnna Cumber long ago won the cash war in San Marco-centric Council District 5; with roughly $177,000 on hand compared to less than $500 for Democrat James Jacobs, this race seems to have been conceded by the Democratic Party.

Council District 6 in Mandarin looks like Republican Rose Conry‘s race to lose. In October, $5,000 of new money pushed her over $104,000 on hand. Her sole opponent, fellow Republican Michael Boylan, continues to lag with disappointing receipts: he has just $40,000 on hand, with $1,875 raised in October.

District 7 (Springfield/Downtown/Northside) incumbent Democrat Reggie Gaffney held his lead over a crowded field of challengers in October; his over $55,000 cash-on-hand is more money than every opponent has … combined.

In District 8, appointed incumbent Ju’Coby Pittman has yet to file for election. Democrat Tameka Gaines Holly leads a crowded and under-capitalized field, with just over $21,000 on hand. Pittman’s move will determine the trajectory here. Notable: suspended incumbent Katrina Brown, who faces federal fraud charges, is still an active candidates.

District 9 Democratic incumbent Garrett Dennis has yet to file for re-election (he could run for higher office). The only filed candidate here is Marcellus Holmes, a former professional football player who has under $300 on hand.

District 10’s incumbent Republican, gubernatorial appointee Terrance Freeman, is looking to run citywide. He wouldn’t win in the majority Democratic district anyway, but it’s anyone’s guess who emerges from a field of 11 candidates, none of whom have more than $2,000 on hand.

Districts 11, 12, and 13 look to be Republican holds. Incumbents Danny Becton and Randy White have no competition and nearly $90,000 and $65,000 on hand in 11 and 12. And in Beaches’ CD 13, Rory Diamond is the chosen candidate of the Jacksonville establishment, and despite the requisite grumbles, no one is throwing in against Diamond and his $122,000+ nest egg.

District 14 (Avondale/Riverside/Ortega/NAS JAX) continues to be a two-woman race: Republican Randy DeFoor has roughly $157,000 on hand, between her campaign account and her political committee. Democrat Sunny Gettinger has roughly $100,000.

Jacksonville Bold for 11.9.18 — Game change

Electing Ron DeSantis to the top office in the state (pending recount, that is) is a capital-g “Game Change” moment for Duval.

DeSantis’ base is Jacksonville though he lives in Ponte Vedra.

Everyone reading this knows that despite a county line, the money easily flows over borders.

Don’t kid yourselves, Gov. Ron DeSantis is a game changer for Jacksonville.

Pols from both Duval and Clay validated him, in case Adam Putnam pressure made Trumpista voters a bit wobbly. And DeSantis’ general election campaign savior, Susie Wiles, hails from the same region.

As you read on, Wiles is not done yet.

Northeast Florida has a lot of needs. It’s hard to imagine member projects getting vetoed, especially in favor of projects benefiting Democratic Mayors who heaped opprobrium on DeSantis before Election Day.

Jacksonville won. Northeast Florida won.

To quote a familiar presence: “Are you tired of winning yet?”

We run things

Few will disagree that the support of President Donald Trump carried DeSantis to what looks like a victory in the Governor’s race.

But no less important: support from Northeast Florida.

Susie Wiles (for good or ill) pulled it together for Ron DeSantis.

For two terms in Congress, DeSantis represented Ponte Vedra, the suburbs south of Jacksonville (a third term saw his district moved farther south). It was clear during most of his tenure that Congress wasn’t his final destination; a perception reinforced when he (briefly) ran for the party’s Senate nomination until incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election.

Though a recount is now assured in the Governor’s race, the DeSantis team is already moving into transition mode. And atop that transition is a big Northeast Florida bow.

Campaign manager Wiles, who took a campaign that looked unmoored and undisciplined and stabilized the operation before finding a way to erase Andrew Gillum‘s polling edge with independent voters, is running the transition.

But wait, there’s more.

Trump’s man bests Clinton alum

So much for the polls. And outside money.

The high-profile race to replace DeSantis in Congress involved two nationally known candidates and went down to the wire.

Mike Waltz served our country. Now he’s serving in our Congress.

Ultimately, the President picked the winner. And that winner won by double-digits.

Republican Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret and counterterrorism adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defeated Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations.

The race saw more than $5 million of direct spending from the candidates; $3 million of that was from Soderberg, who ran as a moderate Democrat in a district that the previous Democratic candidate and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton each lost by 15+ points in 2016.

The money was necessary on both sides as the air war went nuclear.

Per CNN, “the vast majority of the roughly $3.7 million spent on TV in this district in the final week [was] coming from Soderberg and her allies — including $2.4 million from Michael Bloomberg‘s Independence USA PAC.”

Soderberg messaged as a moderate Democrat. But it wasn’t enough.

Radical change coming

The two Congressmen representing Jacksonville, Democrat Al Lawson and Republican John Rutherford, have become friends in the last two years.

John Rutherford and Al Lawson with Rep. Val Demings. (Image via David Cawton/Jax Daily Record)

Lawson, representing Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which sprawls from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, emphasizes working across the aisle, and in a Republican-held House that has been a useful strategy, especially for the Republican power structure that controls Jacksonville at every level.

Rutherford, whose CD 4 includes Jacksonville and many of its suburbs, has been an enthusiastic Trump booster.

Both men won handily Tuesday. Rutherford beat Democrat Ges Selmont; Lawson defeated Democrat Virginia Fuller.

However, before the election, both men told Florida Politics what a flip may portend.

“One thing I’ve learned after almost two years in Washington, D.C., in the House of Representatives: You never want to be in the minority party,” Rutherford noted. “It makes it very difficult to get your agenda accomplished.

Read more here.

Wyman triumphs

The million-dollar-plus race to replace Jay Fant in House District 15 has concluded.

And the Democrats — despite a herculean effort — could not flip it.

On Tuesday, Republican Wyman Duggan defeated Democrat Tracye Polson by 51 percent to 49 percent.

Wyman Duggan wins: Try as they might, Democrats couldn’t flip HD 15.

Democrats had not previously fielded a candidate for this seat for nearly a decade. However, this cycle saw not simply a campaign, but one that had the resources to compete with Republican political machines both in downtown Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

And that GOP machine was out in force, with legislators from across the state coming into Jacksonville’s Westside to knock on doors for Duggan, a lobbyist by trade who was backed by the local political establishment.

The special interests attacked, and they got through to voters outside of Riverside and Avondale, sinecures where a Polson sign was on every block.

Duggan will be a reliable voice for interests of City Hall, offering Mayor Lenny Curry another person in the delegation with whom communication flows well.

Republicans hold serve

Despite active campaigns in other Republican-held districts, Democrats couldn’t overcome party registration and capital advantages, WJXT reported.

“In House District 11, which includes Nassau County and part of Duval County, Republican incumbent Cord Byrd was re-elected to his second two-year term with 69 percent of the vote. He faced a challenge from Democrat Nathcelly Leroy Rohrbaugh, a homemaker and first-time candidate.”

Cord Byrd rebuffed primary and general election challenges.

Byrd credited “grassroots.” Other candidates had similar margins.

District 12’s Clay Yarborough garnered 59 percent of the vote, HD 16’s Jason Fischer 58 percent.

In House District 17, incumbent Republican Cyndi Stevenson cleared 70 percent, as did HD 19’s Bobby Payne.

House District 24 Republican Paul Renner also breezed to victory. Meanwhile, Reps. Tracie Davis, Kim Daniels, and Travis Cummings had no opposition.

‘Losing sucks’

Tuesday night, Jacksonville Mayor Curry was not graceful in victory.

In victory, there was little grace.

Curry spiked the ball on local exponents of the “Blue Wave” theory, reminding locals of his pre-primary endorsement of Ron DeSantis for Governor and his support of U.S. Senator-elect Rick Scott.

“From my years in Sports, coaching, business, parenting, life & government, I’ve never understood those that lose the battle then find something to celebrate. Odd and a recipe for serial losing. Losing sucks. I’m glad my opponents haven’t figured that out,” Curry tweeted.

Curry was in position to spike the ball. In addition to DeSantis and Scott winning (also pending a recount), other endorsed candidates, like Mike Waltz in CD 6 and Duggan in House District 15, got over the finish line despite well-funded and energetic Democratic challengers with outside help.

His message: Curry’s ready for 2019.

Blu-Val?

The always perceptive Andrew Pantazi noted Duval going Democratic Tuesday, then noted that it didn’t matter much in the end for statewide tallies.

Duval got on the bus. But the exurbs went the other way.

“DeSantis didn’t need to worry about the large urban counties. While Duval’s margin shifted by a whopping 50,855 votes, that wasn’t enough to handle the Republican growth in the state’s suburban and exurban counties,” Pantazi notes, before adding that Dems have work ahead.

“And even though Duval was one of the few counties to shift hard toward Democrats, the county is still run almost entirely by Republicans. It has a Republican mayor in the city that gives the most power to a mayor of any municipality in the state. It has a Republican sheriff in a consolidated government that gives him more power than almost any other sheriff. It has Republicans running each of the constitutional offices — tax collector, property appraiser, clerk of courts, supervisor of elections. And the City Council is still overwhelmingly Republican: 13 out of the 19 city council members are Republicans, a supermajority.”

GOP holds Duval tax collector spot

Though a 2019 election looms, Republican Jim Overton won Tuesday’s special election for Duval County Tax Collector.

The tax man cometh.

But it was close.

Overton won with 51 percent of the vote. He defeated Democrat Mia Jones, most recently a member of the Florida House, rising to Democratic Leader pro tempore in 2014-16.

The low-wattage race pitted two political veterans against each other in the runoff, after both emerged from an August blanket primary.

Worth watching now that the special election is over: Whether anyone will file to oppose the winner on the 2019 ballot. Qualifying is in early January.

Ask Council first, OK?

Duval County voters Tuesday approved a nonbinding referendum suggesting that the Jacksonville City Council must first approve a sale of 10 percent or more of the municipal utility (JEA).

Before a JEA sale, Council members must have a say.

While JEA has an independent board, the push to privatize the utility that started a year ago led Council members to want increased checks and balance.

Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni, who sponsored the legislation that put the measure on the ballot, said the nonbinding poll allowed voters to “weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

The legislation to put the matter on the ballot came after some of the best-connected lobbyists in the area started working this spring for companies that may want to buy JEA.

Speculation has swirled that even though the issue has been tabled in recent months, it could return with a new intensity after city elections in spring 2019.

T-shirt theater

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a Democrat, wore a Gillum for Governor T-shirt to a Council committee meeting Tuesday.

A blazer covered the jacket. Nonetheless, he was told that would draw an ethics complaint, he said.

Garrett Dennis probably won’t wear his Andrew Gillum shirt again.

“My jacket was on all day,” Dennis said.

Dennis said earlier in the day he had run into Jacksonville’s two most powerful staffers: Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and Chief of Staff Brian Hughes.

According to Dennis, they told him to “take off your jacket … we want to see what’s under your jacket.”

A copy of the complaint is not yet in hand. And we’ve been frustrated in getting any confirmation such a complaint exists.

“Complaints made to the Ethics Commission are confidential, per Florida law,” said Carla Miller, the City of Jacksonville’s Director of Ethics Compliance and Oversight.

Hughes, meantime, says this is another “false claim” from Dennis.

This latest episode continues an ongoing tango of claims and counterclaims. Dennis has maintained that Lenny Curry’s administration has bullied and intimidated him for over a year.

At the same time, one former Curry staffer has claimed that Dennis intimidated her during a closed meeting.

Salute to disabled vets

Jacksonville-based law firm Farah & Farah is teaming up with Five Star Veterans Center for a donation drive, and the firm will match donations up to $79,000 through Nov. 18. All donations go to the center.

You can make donations in any amount at farahandfarah.com/veterans.

Please consider a donation to the Five Star Veterans Center.

Founded in March 2012, Five Star Veterans Center is a nonprofit to assist veterans aged 22 to 55 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, depression, anxiety and other related mental health issues.

The goal of the organization is for each veteran to be reintegrated into society, and to help displaced military veterans find safe housing and supportive services.

To view a video about the promotion and Five Star Veterans Center, click on the image below:

JAA committee recommends CEO

A four-member CEO selection committee of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is recommending Mark VanLoh as the organization’s next leader, replacing Steve Grossman who retired earlier this year.

Congratulations to Mark VanLohm, the leading candidate for JAA CEO.

As first reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the full board will vote on VanLoh during its next meeting Nov. 26. VanLoh comes to the JAA after stints as director of aviation for Kansas City, Missouri and president of Chattanooga Airport Authority.

“The selection committee is ecstatic to nominate Mark VanLoh to succeed Steve Grossman,” committee chair Patrick Kilbane said in a statement. “Mark will bring extensive experience, proven results and passion to the aviation authority. We look forward to working with him.”

VanLoh came out on top in a field of 73 applicants, which was then narrowed to four by the consulting firm ADK Consulting & Executive Search. Of that final list, VanLoh was considered the “clear winner.”

UF Health gets top grades in 2019

A new report by national health organization analysts at Healthgrades are recognizing UF Health Jacksonville with two prestigious clinical awards, ranking it as one of the top hospitals in the country for multiple areas of care.

According to a statement from UF Health Jacksonville, the achievements our in cranial neurosurgery and critical care. UF Health Jacksonville is the only hospital in Northeast Florida to receive those distinctions.

UF Health gets accolades as a top hospital for 2019.

“This is an amazing achievement, and I could not be prouder of the people here who have worked so hard to improve our quality,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine — Jacksonville.

Evaluation and the Healthgrades 2019 report highlights the importance of consumer access to high-quality care, using data from 4,500 hospitals nationwide — including risk-adjusted mortality and complication rates — to determine the top performing hospitals nationwide.

Glimpse of the past

Per COJ.net: After spending nearly 60 years behind a cornerstone in the old Bay Street City Hall building, the contents of a time capsule buried in 1960 were opened by Mayor Curry and City Council President Aaron Bowman Oct. 3.

The contents have been digitized and stored in the Special Collections Department at the Main Library, which can also be viewed on the Jacksonville Public Library website.

The public gets a glimpse into the past as Jacksonville opens a 1960 time capsule.

There is also a way to look at the artifacts in person, by calling call (904) 630-2409 to schedule an appointment with a librarian. Library officials are working to create a name index, making it easier to find specific people mentioned within the artifacts.

JAXPORT Top Ten

Moving about 2.8 million metric tons from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 — the 2018 fiscal year — JAXPORT is one of the key hubs for transporting raw materials.

JAXPORT releases its Top Ten cargo items in FY 2018.

The Jacksonville Business Journal reports on the top 10 imports coming through JAXPORT (listed here from smallest to largest):

— Stones and pebbles: accounting for 89,500 metric tons.

— Coal: Last year’s front-runner dropped to 90,000 metric tons, from 1.9 million metric tons in FY 2017.

— Coffee: More than 94,000 metric tons moved through JAXPORT this year.

— Tires, tubes: The Port of Jacksonville imported nearly 100,000 metric tons of tires and tubes.

— Furniture: More than 182,000 metric tons of furniture move through the Port of Jacksonville.

— Petroleum products: about 183,000 metric tons of petroleum products were imported through the port last year.

— Other: Since much of JAXPORT is “tenant-operated,” a significant number of items in containers are not listed. That category accounts for 368,000 metric tons.

— Paper products: JAXPORT moved nearly 369,000 metric tons of paper and paper products.

— Limestone: More than a half-million tons of limestone were imported through the port in 2018.

And the No. 1 most imported item through JAXPORT:

— Automobiles: Nearly 750,000 metric tons of motor vehicles came through the Port of Jacksonville, by way of Southeast Toyota Distributors, Amports and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.

Jaguars desperate for a win

Fans and analysts are calling Sunday’s game in Indianapolis against the Colts a “must win.” Players and coaches do not often say such things publicly, but these are not ordinary times.

“This is a thousand percent must-win,” said linebacker Myles Jack. “No. 1, it’s a conference game that we’ve got to win. And then we’re on a four-game losing streak, so we can’t lose another game.”

Myles Jack calls this Sunday a “thousand percent must-win.”

It is also an AFC South Division game, one of two against the Colts. Both teams come into the game with 3-5 records, both trailing the 6-3 Houston Texans.

The Jaguars are coming off their bye week. By going winless in October, they last walked off the field after a victory Sept. 30, when they beat the New York Jets 31-12 at TIAA Bank Field.

While the game is on the road, there are some positives to look at for Jacksonville. Top among those is the return of running back Leonard Fournette from injury.

But unless someone is a super-back, they can often be only as good as their offensive line, which has been a problem lately. Coach Doug Marrone said he lost faith in the line during their game in London against the Philadelphia Eagles, especially in short yardage situations.

Quarterback Blake Bortles is thrilled to have Fournette return and believes, as does the entire team, that the team’s fortunes are about to improve dramatically.

“I know everybody’s fired up to have him back in the lineup,” Bortles said. “I know I’m excited to watch him run. I know guys are excited to block for him and kind of see him go.”

The game will mark the first without defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams soon after returning from London.

The defense needs to get better quickly as well since they face on of the NFL’s top quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, a dynamic receiver in T.Y. Hilton and emerging running back Marlon Mack out of the University of South Florida.

On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars recorded 10 sacks the last time these teams met more than a year ago. The Colts are counting on their improved offensive line to prevent a repeat.

Special forces: How Mike Waltz defeated the national left

Florida elections saw in many respects a blue wave, as witnessed by three of the five state-level races on the ballot triggering recounts.

However, that 50/50 tendency didn’t extend to every contested race. Exhibit A in that regard: Florida’s 6th Congressional District, the former fiefdom of Governor-elect (?) Ron DeSantis.

Republican Mike Waltz, a Trump-endorsed former Green Beret and counterterrorism adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defeated Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations.

Despite Soderberg spending over $3 million directly and having even more than that come in from Michael Bloomberg and other national Democrats, despite all of the talk of a blue wave, Soderberg wasn’t able to close the deal. She went down 56 percent to 44 percent, losing in all four counties in the district.

And her campaign didn’t seem to see it coming.

Soderberg ran as a moderate Democrat in a district that the previous Democratic candidate and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton each lost by 15+ points in 2016.

Bloomberg‘s Independence USA PAC spent $3 million of its own. Fundraising was definitely a prerequisite in this Daytona-centered district, which abuts the Jacksonville media market to the north and the Orlando market to the west.

Despite those expenditures and endorsements that included former President Barack Obama and former Vice-President Joe Biden, Soderberg was a tough sell.

Those familiar with the thinking of the Waltz campaign note that during the general election, Soderberg began to message heavily on insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

While that issue did poll well with Democrats, for Soderberg the issue represented a pivot from the foreign policy expertise that was her brand. In addition, Soderberg’s advertising featured a woman who was demographically similar to her; a potential missed opportunity to message beyond her base.

A narrative persisted, driven by favorable public polls, that the race could be a margin of error race despite the +5 party registration edge (43 – 38) for the GOP, and President Donald Trump, a Waltz endorser, winning by 17 points in 2016.

The polls didn’t match the campaign’s internals, which tracked with a 10-point race.

A couple of the polls were conducted before Waltz went on television. And they reflected a much softer primary challenge for Soderberg than Waltz, who went against another deep-pocketed self-financer and a former local Mayor and state Representative.

When Waltz did go on television, he had already established an image people wanted to buy into. A war hero and a pragmatist who had been campaigning in the district for a year, the grassroots bought in.

While Micah Ketchel and Tim Baker of Data Targeting did their parts, worth mentioning is the rising star campaign manager Hunter Wilkins, who spearheaded an “army of Waltz warriors” that knocked on 200,000 doors and made about the same number of phone calls.

Just as Waltz was campaigning, so too was his team. And even after a fractious Republican primary, Waltz’s dispatched opponents, John Ward and Fred Costello, campaigned for him in the end.

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