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July looks like previous months in Jacksonville City Council fundraising

Fundraising for Jacksonville City Council 2019 races is in full swing, and here’s a look at the landscape. Unmentioned races have no filed candidates at this writing.

In Jacksonville City Council District 1, Democratic incumbent Joyce Morgan filed at the beginning of August, with no appreciable fundraising. Her sole opponent, Republican Bill Bishop, raised $4,400 in July (his best month since launching last October). He has roughly $15,000 on hand.

Incumbent Republican Al Ferraro continues a cakewalk to re-election in District 2. Jaguars’ owner Shad Khan was among the donors that led to a $5,825 July. Ferraro has $46,000 on hand; his only opponent has just over $100 on hand.

In District 4, Council Vice President Scott Wilson kicked off his campaign with $12,000 in July. The Republican has no competition yet.

In District 5, Republican LeAnna Cumber has $176,000 on hand and has paused raising money, given her Democratic opponent has under $500 banked.

District 6 sees two Republicans, Michael Boylan and Rose Conry, battling for an open seat. Neither raised much in July: Boylan, just $475; Conry, $2,100. Conry, with $77,000 on hand, has a 2:1 cash advantage.

District 7 Democrat Reggie Gaffney has $49,000 on hand after a $2,725 July. The field is crowded, yet undercapitalized. His closest competitor, Solomon Olopade, has $12,550 on hand, and most of that is self-funding.

In District 8, Tameka Gaines Holly still leads the field; with $22,000 on hand, she dominates a field where the rest of the candidates are in four figures. The incumbent, appointed Ju’Coby Pittman, has yet to file for election.

District 9 Democrat Marcellus Holmes is the only filed candidate thus far; he has $290 on hand; incumbent Garrett Dennis has yet to file for reelection.

In District 10, where Republican Terrance Freeman was appointed to fill a vacancy created by suspension, fundraising has not been a priority for those running for office. Kevin Monroe, with roughly $1,900 on hand, leads in cash-on-hand.

District 11 Republican incumbent Danny Becton, running unopposed, brought in $17,750 in July, pushing him over $80,000 raised, with over $79,000 on hand.

District 12 Republican Randy White, who was appointed to fill a future vacancy once Doyle Carter‘s resignation takes effect, has no 2019 —opposition  and over $86,000 on hand.

District 13 Republican Rory Diamond has no opposition for an open seat, and $115,000 on hand after July’s $2,650 raised.

In District 14, Democrat Sunny Gettinger, with over $11,000 raised in July, continues to cut into Republican Randy DeFoor‘s cash lead. DeFoor is still up, $117,000 to $90,000, but the margin narrows every month. This will be an open seat, with incumbent Republican Jim Love termed out. Other candidates are farther back in the cash chase.

In at-large races, Republican Chris Whitfield, unopposed in At-large Group 1, has yet to raise money.

In Groups 2-4, Republican Ron Salem, Democrat Tommy Hazouri, and Republican Matt Carlucci look like the best bets. The Republicans have both raised major money against nominal competition. And Hazouri is unopposed.

In Group 5, incumbent Republican Sam Newby has raised just over $18,000 against two opponents. Newby won citywide in 2015 with less than that, however.

Now in LG mix, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams’ re-election fundraising slows to trickle

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, according to POLITICO, is on a list of nine potential Lieutenant Governor picks being considered by Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“The top cop in Duval County is the first and (so far) only sheriff to endorse DeSantis. If the campaign wants to emphasize law and order, the job might be for the taking for Williams. Compared to the other shortlisters, Williams has the closest personal relationship with DeSantis,” the Friday writeup asserts.

Indeed, DeSantis and Williams share a political ally (Kent Stermon), and Williams broke with most of the Republican establishment in Jacksonville and 49 sheriffs statewide, endorsing DeSantis ahead of the debate with Adam Putnam Wednesday.

“When I talk with Ron DeSantis, his view of law enforcement mirrors my own: protecting innocent citizens and holding bad actors accountable. I believe, that as Governor, Ron DeSantis will prioritize law enforcement and will be good for the citizens of Jacksonville.  I am proud to offer him my support,” Williams added.

Whether DeSantis ultimately picks Williams or not is an open question, with considerations that extend beyond personal relationships into regional and demographic appeals. However, it’s interesting that the consideration is happening at a time when Williams’ re-election fundraising has slowed.

Between his campaign and committee accounts, Williams raised just $1,450 in July. This leaves Williams with roughly $440,000 on hand.

Despite a pause in fundraising, Williams is not in appreciable danger at the ballot box. His sole opponent, Democrat Tony Cummings, has $700 on hand.

Jacksonville Bold for 8.10.18 — Contenders, pretenders

We’ve hit the stretch of the primary season; where the money is being spent, not raised.

Where ads are cut, and voters engaged.

And where candidates know if they are still in the game.

No one comes out and says “well, it looks over.”

But losing candidates seem different.

We saw it with Adam Putnam, who won a Potemkin straw poll Monday in Jacksonville, but clearly seemed to be losing the war, even ahead of Wednesday’s debate.

Adam Putnam wins a Jacksonville-area straw poll, but is it enough?

We see it with Alvin Brown, whose campaign — and political career — seem to have gone up in smoke.

The Democratic candidates for Governor — well, four of them will lose, despite all maintaining a brave face in Thursday’s forum.

Optimism of months ago? Gone.

Soon enough, the cycle begins anew, with the necessary polarities of the general election.

But for now, we see the endgame of what has become a very long primary season.

Nelson, DeSantis win St. Johns straw polls

More than 550 votes were cast in straw polls from the St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections office during the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce’s “Politics in St. Johns” series of events.

Candidate meet-and-greet style events were in Ponte Vedra on July 16 and St. Augustine on August 1.

While the polls were informal, there was at least one interesting result: Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson took a 19-vote victory over Gov. Rick Scott for the U.S. Senate contest.

Ron DeSantis takes the lead in a St. Johns Chamber straw poll.

In the race for Governor, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis enjoys a 6-point lead, according to the straw poll, with 26 percent of the total vote. This result over Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam more closely reflects the nine-point lead DeSantis enjoys in a statewide done held by the Florida Atlantic University Business and Economics Polling Initiative.

The leading Democratic vote-getter — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum — took 19 percent of the total vote, leading the next closest Democratic candidate Gwen Graham, who earned 13 percent.

Republican Congressman John Rutherford also led his Democratic rival, George “Ges” Selmont, by 40 votes. In Florida’s 6th Congressional District, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg took a significant lead over the field, besting the next highest vote-getter, Republican Michael Waltz, by nearly 40 votes (96-47).

The Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Renner in House District 24 race, Adam Morley, also scored a 10-vote victory.

Combined, the Chamber estimates nearly 1,000 people attended Politics in St. Johns events in 2018, the largest attendance since the Chamber launched the series in 2012.

“I am very pleased to see how this series has grown over the years; it means that people are becoming more engaged. We are proud to be able to provide a platform that will help St. Johns County residents make an informed voting decision,” Chamber President Isabelle Renault said.

Dullsville

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

Alvin Brown and Al Lawson seemed subdued Monday night.

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

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

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

Neither Brown nor Lawson was on his game. Brown had the gaffe of the night, however, saying he backed a “living wage — 15 cents an hour.”

He corrected himself.

“Fifteen DOLLARS an hour,” he amended.

Supplementary reading: Is Alvin Brown a hypocrite on charter schools?

CBC backs Lawson

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

Is Al Lawson in position to run out the clock? (Image via Roll Call)

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

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

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

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

Still another endorsement for Lawson that must feel like a cruel cut: the backing of Brown’s former political mentor, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who Brown also namechecked during the Monday evening forum.

Bradley, Cummings back DeSantis

In a sign of the changing times in the Republican gubernatorial race, state Sen. Rob Bradley and state Rep. Travis Cummings endorsed U.S. Rep. DeSantis for Governor on Wednesday.

These endorsements, rolled out hours before DeSantis debated Putnam in Jacksonville, show the influential Clay County Republicans breaking with many Jacksonville elected officials and Republican activists, who fell in line behind Putnam when he seemed certain months back.

Count Rob Bradley on #TeamDeSantis.

“I’m proud to endorse Ron DeSantis for Governor of Florida.” Sen. Bradley said in a statement. “Our state needs strong, dependable leadership and Ron DeSantis is a proven conservative who will make a great Governor. He’s an Iraq veteran with a solid conservative record and the support of our President.”

“He’s demonstrated a fierce commitment to principle in Congress, and he will bring the same values to Tallahassee. I look forward to working with him to strengthen our economy, improve our education system and bring accountability to our government,” Bradley, who serves as the Senate Appropriations chair, said Wednesday.

“Ron DeSantis is a proven conservative leader with a strong record of service to our country both in Congress and in the military.” asserted Cummings, who chairs Health and Human Services in the House.

The open question: Will other Jacksonville-area endorsements fall into line for DeSantis?

While many Jacksonville pols, including U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, and Jacksonville City Council Vice-President Aaron Bowman, have backed Putnam, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has — at least up until now — reserved an endorsement.

Bradley defends MMJ law

Despite a Tallahassee judge declaring significant parts of the state’s medical marijuana law unconstitutional, the law’s chief architect on Tuesday said he was confident the law would be affirmed.

No smoke, no problem, says Rob Bradley, who stands behind medical cannabis law on books.

“The trial court ruling injected unnecessary uncertainty into the emerging medical marijuana marketplace,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican. “I’m confident that our appellate courts will uphold (its) constitutionality.”

In 2017, lawmakers passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed the measure (SB 8-A) into law to implement the state’s medicinal cannabis constitutional amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters the year before. Bradley was the primary sponsor.

In recent months, however, judges have been chipping away at the law, beginning with Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ ruling that Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner can grow and make juice of his own marijuana.

In another case, Gievers struck down the law’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, saying that conflicts with the amendment. The state is appealing both of those rulings.

Bradley disagreed: “Medical marijuana is being grown, processed and sold in a safe, orderly fashion today in Florida,” he told Florida Politics.

“As more companies come online, and the Department (of Health) fully implements an integrated seed-to-sale system and a delay-free ID card system, the system will develop into a model for other states,” he added.

The department regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

“Floridians rightfully expect to have access to safe, quality medical marijuana, and also expect that the product be regulated properly like any other medicine,” Bradley said. “SB 8-A accomplishes both goals.”

Senators’ green to keep Tallahassee red

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

Rob Bradley and Travis Hutson share hugs … and an interest in a GOP Senate majority.

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

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

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

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

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

‘SYG’ Special Session?

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

Audrey Gibson’s “SYG” gambit won’t fly in a GOP state capital.

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

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

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

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

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

Worst Democrat in Florida?

One of the smartest electoral analysts in the state, Democratic analyst Matthew Isbell, isn’t stoked about Rep. Kim Daniels winning her open Democratic primary this month against Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright.

Matt Isbell may complain, but Kim Daniels looks well-positioned.

“On Aug. 28, voters will go to the polls in Florida to cast votes in the primary election. The gubernatorial primary and a slew of congressional primaries are dominating the news. In an era where a politician can lose a primary for either being ‘not conservative enough’ or ‘not liberal enough’ — despite no other scandals — it is a shame to see one Florida politician appearing to escape serious threat: Kim Daniels,” Isbell notes.

“The frustrating thing for folks like myself is that Kim Daniels appears set to win reelection despite years of controversy and unacceptable views. Daniels only got an opponent at the last minute, and the primary wasn’t closed, ensuring Republicans could play spoiler in a race between two Democrats,” Isbell adds.

“Meanwhile, as conservatives flood in to aid Daniels, liberal aid has been more modest. The race just does not appear to be on the radar of Florida’s left-wing interests. State Democrats do not like Daniels at all, yet little effort is being made behind the scenes to aid Wright. Wright is fighting an underfunded and uphill battle against an incumbent mired in scandal and controversy. Daniels may well win on Aug. 28, despite being the least deserving of reelection of any Democrat in the state,” Isbell notes.

Daniels has a fundraising edge and has been hard to beat in Northwest Jacksonville. In this case, she is positioned to end Paula Wright’s political career.

Freeman Friday

Jacksonville’s motion to intervene in a legal challenge filed last month to a City Councilman appointed by Gov. Rick Scott will be heard in a Duval County hearing room at 2 p.m. Friday.

Terrence Freeman is settling in, but the legal challenge continues.

Judge Waddell Wallace, appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999, will decide whether the city has legal standing regarding the case of Terrance Freeman, whose residency in District 10 is under challenge after the announcement of his appointment in July.

Filing the challenge is Brenda Priestly-Jackson, a Democrat and former Duval County School Board chair who was passed up for the appointment to fill the unexpired term of suspended incumbent Democrat Reggie Brown,

Priestly-Jackson says Freeman, who established residency in the district by renting two rooms in a private home the day he was appointed, was not a legitimate pick because he moved to Northwest Jacksonville solely to serve on the Council.

The city contends it has leeway to determine residency and that the suit names Freeman as a defendant in his official capacity.

“However, the city contends the controlling law clearly establishes that City Councilmembers’ terms in office do not commence until they have sworn the required oath, among other things. As such, application of city laws, policies and procedures will be a critical component of this litigation,” the filing contends.

“While Plaintiff purports to bring her allegations against Councilmember Freeman in his individual capacity, by alleging that he assumed his mantle as an active member of the City Council immediately upon appointment, Plaintiff has actually sued Councilmember Freeman as an active, sitting member of the City Council in his official capacity,” the filing adds.

Wallace to JAXBIZ

According to the Jacksonville Daily Record, Downtown Investment Authority CEO Aundra Wallace is on the move: he will be president of the JAXUSA Partnership starting in October.

Aundra Wallace. (Image via Folio Weekly)

He will replace outgoing Jerry Mallot.

Wallace, observed Daily Record commentator David Cawton, has been involved in much of the downtown development action the last five years — a time that included a drastic change in the Mayor’s Office.

However, Wallace was impervious, working well with the Curry administration on priority projects — most recently, the District development, which donor Peter Rummell will have city incentives to help him get going on the Southbank.

Man in the mirror

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

Michael Jackson’s philanthropy will finally be put to use in Jacksonville.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airbnb follies

Unlike the majority of Florida counties, the city of Jacksonville can’t figure out what to do about Airbnb taxes. A recent audit suggests missed opportunities, with Duval County losing out on $366,000 in taxes due to an inability to match municipal code with reality.

The losses, a recent audit showed, are substantial: “$366,000 in Tourist Development and Convention Development Taxes just from Airbnb in the calendar year 2017 alone.”

Additionally, there are other companies like Airbnb so that collections could be more.

The problem: Single-family homes, per the city’s zoning code, do not permit what one city councilor called “transient” housing.

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

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

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

Mousa did not elaborate on where such corners may be.

However, other counties have figured it out. A misconception expressed in Council committees was that Airbnb would be averse to audits and the collection of back taxes. However, other counties have negotiated such deals, and it’s a mystery why Jacksonville can’t figure it out.

Expect movement on this issue in the coming months from Council President Aaron Bowman. For now, however, the city is left out of revenue collection, much as is the case with vehicles for hire — another gap in the code that has been unaddressed for years.

Too late

A state appeals court has blocked a Clay County judicial candidate from appearing on the ballot because she filed her paperwork too late.

“We recognize that the public policy of Florida generally favors letting the people decide the ultimate qualifications of candidates,” the 1st District Court of Appeal concluded Wednesday, in an opinion by Judge Kent Wetherell II. Judges Ross Bilberry and Kimberly Thomas concurred.

“However, absent special circumstances, public policy considerations cannot override the clear and unambiguous statutory requirement that all of the candidate’s qualifying paperwork must be received by the filing officer by the end of the qualifying period.”

The court upheld a ruling by a trial judge from the 7th Judicial Circuit, who heard the case because it originated in a motion filed by incumbent Clay County Judge Kristina Mobley.

According to the court record, Lucy Ann Hoover arrived at the county supervisor of elections office at 11:55 a.m. on May 4, just shy of the noon deadline. She filed her qualifying check at 11:57, but her candidate oath at 12:01 and her financial disclosure form at 12:12. The office accepted the late documents, and certified Hoover as a candidate, under a policy of requiring only that prospective candidates be physically present and filling out their paperwork before the deadline falls.

Mobley is a Rick Scott appointee. Joe Mobley, her husband, is a member of the Fiorentino Group.

Downtown Jax plans $63M ‘innovation corridor’

Plans are emerging for a multimillion-dollar high-tech corridor to run through downtown via Bay Street, connecting Jacksonville’s budding transportation center to TIAA Bank Field. The Jacksonville Business Journal reported that a bid for federal grant funding by city agencies include a $62.9 million plan for an “innovation corridor” — with 15 autonomous shuttles deployed between the Skyway infrastructure to surface streets, as well as an array of sensors that could detect gunshots, flooding and more. The corridor would also provide an incubator for emerging technologies.

A $63 million ‘innovation corridor’ could be down Bay Street. (Image via Jacksonville Business Journal)

The joint proposal — from the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, JEA, the City of Jacksonville and Jax Chamber — is seeking $25 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation in a competitive grant program.

The innovation corridor is meant to be a proof of concept for two current initiatives: JTA’s Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) — the evolution of the Jacksonville Skyway system — and the TPO’s Integrated Data Exchange. A fleet of autonomous vehicles would descend from Skyway’s 2.5-mile elevated infrastructure via offramps onto surface streets throughout downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, transforming the people-mover system into a 10-mile network.

JIA speeding security with bomb-sniffing dogs

Beginning this week, bomb-sniffing dogs are being employed to help speed up security checks at Jacksonville International Airport.

Transportation Security Administration spokesperson Sari Koshetz told Jenna Bourne of Action News Jax, that the dogs are helping travelers get through security lines faster. Passengers standing in line who are cleared by the dogs could move into an expedited security lane, eliminating the need to take off shoes, belt or jackets and leaving laptops in bags.

(Image via Action News Jax)

Dogs will also sniff passengers and airport employees at the gate.

TSA K-9 handler Donald “Bubba” Deason told WJAX that travelers should not be frightened by his K-9, Boomer.

“Some people have a fear of dogs. And they look at the dog and then they get, ‘I don’t want to go near the dog. I don’t want to go past the dog,’” Deason said. “And basically, we tell them the dog’s not going to hurt you. It doesn’t attack. All it wants to do is sniff.”

JIA to welcome new VIP lounge

A new VIP lounge is coming to Jacksonville International Airport, Jacksonville Aviation Authority unanimously approved this week.

Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports that the Authority agreed to enter a contract to develop a premium lounge, which will be available to customers from multiple airlines and customers who are willing to pay for a day of access.

A new premier lounge is heading to JIA.

“I think we’d be the smallest airport in the country with two VIP lounges,” said JAA CEO Steve Grossman.

Club JAX will open February 2019. It will be a 2,726-square-foot facility featuring a buffet with menus from local chefs, restrooms with showers and a children’s play area.

Texas-based ALD Development Corp. will spend at least $1 million to develop, manage and operate the 49-guest lounge,” Robinson noted. ALD is the nation’s largest developer of independent shared-use lounges, with 18 airport lounges in 13 airports internationally.

First-class passengers can use the lounge as part of an airline or card member rewards programs. Day passes will also be available.

“We are very confident this will be a busy lounge even without Frontier, JetBlue or Allegiant,” Graham Richards, ALD director of strategic network development, told the Business Journal. This includes airlines that don’t yet have lounge reward programs.

JAA will receive part of the lounge revenue, or $80,000 for the first contract year, whichever is higher. The initial agreement will be for seven years, with options to renew every year.

T-U praises JAA for inclusion

A Florida Times-Union mini-editorial is praising the Jacksonville Aviation Authority for winning a “nice award” from a leading airline industry trade group.

The JAA received an Inclusion Championship Award from the Airports Council International-North America for its promotion of local small businesses and workforce diversity.

“The JAA has held workshops, forums and other events to make business opportunities available for small businesses — and particularly for minority entrepreneurs.”

The Authority also won the inclusion award for embracing diversity within its organization.

Flagler Hospital employing AI for better patient care

Saint Augustine’s Flagler Hospital is turning to artificial intelligence to reduce costs and provide better care for patients.

Will Robinson of the Jacksonville Business Journal reports that Flagler is licensing software from California-based Ayasdi, an AI and data science company, for a Clinical Variation Management (CVM) application.

St. Augustine’s Flagler Hospital.

CVM will help standardize frequent care conclusions — pairing antibiotics with certain infections, length of stay decisions and defining appropriate testing, among others.

Clinical variations make up as much as 30 percent of typical health care costs, according to the Institute for Medicine. AI examines big data, taken from electronic medical records, billing and more, to help lower costs.

“We are delighted to engage with Ayasdi on this mission-critical task of creating clinical pathways for our patient population,” said Flagler chief medical informatics officer Dr. Michael C. Sanders. “Our ability to rapidly construct clinical pathways based on our own data and measure adherence by our staff to those standards provides us with the opportunity to deliver better care at a lower cost to our patients.”

New way to watch Jags games this year

Per WJCT, for the first time this year, Jaguars fans can watch preseason games on their smartphones, simply by visiting Jaguars.com/live.

The technology was rolled out Thursday for the game against the Saints, and will be used for the rest of the preseason — a useful and long-awaited add for those who might not have access to television or radio.

Almost as good as being there? Smartphone streaming available for preseason games.

“This season, the NFL has allowed us to expand access to our preseason game broadcasts via a digital stream, affording the Jaguars the opportunity to connect with more fans on multiple platforms and in more than one language,” said Jaguars President Mark Lamping in an email to WJCT News.

The Jaguars have been playing one home game in London since 2012. “The demand for NFL football continues to grow internationally, and the Jaguars have benefited from our aggressive support of the league’s global movement,” said Lamping.

Coaches get a good look at many players in preseason opener

The first preseason game brought excitement to fans, coaches and players for different reasons. Jaguars fans are looking to see those players who took them within an eyelash of last year’s Super Bowl.

Most of those in attendance knew that guys like quarterback Blake Bortles, running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback Jalen Ramsey were likely to play only the first quarter. Those watching on television knew the same thing leading some to go on to do or watch something else.

The Jacksonville Jaguars may have looked good, but looks aren’t everything. (Image via Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

Doug Marrone and his coaching staff already knew what those three and other starters could do. They were anxious for the second and third strings to show why they should be on the team or on the starting unit.

Obviously, those players wanted to show the coaches what they could do.

Going into Thursday’s game against the Saints, one of the questions was who would be Fournette’s backup on opening day? Would it be T.J. Yeldon or fourth-year back Corey Grant?

Would backup quarterback Cody Kessler look like he could fill in if Bortles missed any time during the season? How about impressive rookie wide receiver D. J. Chark, who has looked great in training camp?

Bortles looked terrific in his brief appearance, leading his team on a 79-yard touchdown drive to start the game. For those who stuck around, Kessler was poised during his two-plus quarters of play.

Yeldon maintained his hold on the backup running back position, while Grant was only able to gain 6 yards on 8 carries. Third-string receiver Shane Wynn showed a lot of speed, meriting a closer look.

The Saints won the game, 24-20, but Marrone will consider the night successful, if for no other reason than avoiding major injuries. Next Saturday, the Jaguars travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings.

Five Jacksonville City Councilmen back Baxter Troutman for Ag Commissioner

State Rep. Baxter Troutman, in a competitive three-way race for Agriculture Commissioner, picked up a straw poll win at a meeting of the Jacksonville Young Republicans Monday — and scored five local endorsements while in town.

Worth noting: all five endorsers were at the straw poll event, where Troutman and opponent Sen. Denise Grimsley both spoke.

Troutman did have local advantage in closing the deal, as campaign manager Carlo Fassi offered a Duval tie not present on Grimsley’s side.

“As someone who focuses on job creation in Northeast Florida,” said Council President Aaron Bowman, increasingly willing to endorse candidates, “I value the private sector experience Baxter’s candidacy brings to this race.

“The fact that he’s helped place more than 50,000 Floridians in jobs across the state adds serious credibility to his candidacy. That, coupled with his lifetime of experience in production agriculture, makes him the most qualified, conservative candidate in this year’s race to succeed Adam Putnam as Commissioner of Agriculture,” Bowman added

Council VP Scott Wilson also is on board: “Florida’s agriculture industry is facing a turning point. With diseases plaguing commodity products statewide and natural disasters decimating crop production, it’s important we have a Commissioner who empathizes with what farmers are dealing with and has a plan to address this dire situation.”

“Baxter’s plans to help Florida Agriculture are unmatched by any candidate in this race. As a fellow conservative,” Wilson added, “I’m proud to endorse him.”

Councilman Bill Gulliford opined that Troutman “understands the proper role of government and how it should assist, not impede, a thriving economy. He’s thetrue conservative we need as our next Commissioner.”

Councilman Sam Newby called Troutman “the most qualified conservative candidate in this race,” lauding his “agricultural expertise, private sector success, and public service in the House of Representatives.”

“We need our next Commissioner of Agriculture to be someone who understands from experience how burdensome government regulations can be on job creators. As a business owner myself, I trust Baxter Troutman to help create a level playing field for business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the Sunshine State. He’s a proven conservative with the background needed to be an effective Commissioner of Agriculture.”  asserted Councilman Al Ferraro.

“I’m proud to have the support of these Jacksonville City Council members. They are fine public servants with significant experience in the private sector. Their addition to Team Troutman demonstrates the momentum we continue to build along the First Coast. We are going to win this primary,” asserted Troutman.

As is the case in the gubernatorial race, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has not endorsed here. However, if he were to endorse, it likely would be Troutman.

The five endorsers rolled out Thursday are reliable allies on most issues. And Curry’s chief of staff Brian Hughes was running Troutman’s operation before handing it off to Fassi when he began his stint with the city at the beginning of the year.

For Nikki Fried, cannabis a key to the AG race — and public policy

Nikki Fried, the Broward-based lawyer, medical marijuana lobbyist and Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, appears to be not only well-positioned to win in August, but to compete in November.

She’s winning the endorsement game: the Tampa Bay Times backs her, as do almost two dozen Democrats in the Florida Legislature, the pro-choice Ruth’s List and the SEIU. And she’s performing well at straw polls, winning some outright.

We caught up with her Thursday morning in Jacksonville, just hours before two heavyweights, John Morgan and Alex Sink, were to host an Orlando fundraiser for her.

Fried noted that this “institutional support” is “tremendous,” from “leaders … beacons in the party,” especially Morgan, who has been “so instrumental to the passage of medical marijuana” in Florida, and who backs a cannabis adult-use legalization amendment in 2020.

We stayed on the cannabis subject for some time, with Fried making the most explicit argument any statewide candidate has about the connection of cannabis policy to myriad other systemic issues in the state.

Fried first became professionally interested in cannabis in 2014, when she represented a client who was having access problems to the medicine. Since then, obviously, she has taken that professional interest statewide, and sees a very important role in the Cabinet for “somebody up in Tallahassee who has such a strong base of knowledge and can really kind of blow things up and say this is not working, we need to fix the problems.”

Fried notes that Christian Bax, Gov. Rick Scott‘s point man for implementing cannabis policy, seemed purposefully inept.

“Christian … not a good bureaucrat by any stretch of the imagination” seemed to be “taking orders from Gov. Scott,” Fried said.

“Gov. Scott has made internal comments that he doesn’t want to see any new licenses handed out, [or] an expansion of the program, and it’s really put roadblocks every step of the way,” Fried said, including in implementation, getting licenses and new products out, and enforcement.

“He’s done everything he can to make it as hard as possible for the patients, the doctors, and the providers,” Fried said.

Fried noted, conversely, that Sen. Bill Nelson is moving toward her position on cannabis. Previously he had stated an opposition to “recreational marijuana” and rescheduling the plant.

“He has finally … started to understand the position that it’s in our Constitution,” Fried said. “Rick Scott isn’t even there. He might not be to recreational and legalization … but I’d rather have somebody like Bill Nelson who is going to support the will of the people … than somebody who’s been an obstructionist on this issue.”

Fried also supports the broadening of the list of eligible conditions to include pain, eating disorders, and opiate dependency, noting also that many doctors are reluctant to “go onto the registry because they’re afraid of prosecution and losing their licenses” due to meddling from the Department of Health.

Regarding cannabis criminalization, Fried was blunt, saying it has “imprisoned” those in the state with the least recourse to defend themselves.

“As a public defender, I saw firsthand that a majority of the police reports I saw, that the first line talks about ‘the smell of cannabis was detected’ and probable cause to do searches comes afterward,” Fried said, leading to minority groups being “unfairly targeted” and hooked into the criminal justice system.

Cannabis legalization, Fried said, would remove the option of the pretextual police search by an officer “to stop somebody because they think they smell cannabis on them.”

The end of pretextual stops would remove stresses on the prison system. Moreover, Fried believes that current criminal convictions on cannabis possession should be “expunged.”

“Clemency issues … the restoration of rights … I think that all comes together,” Fried said. “As soon as we can get cannabis out of the conversation of criminal reform and start making those changes, you’ll see a huge change,” including freeing up prison resources for other means.

Fried, a University of Florida alum, has given money to a LOT of Republicans, including Adam Putnam and Ashley Moody.  However, it’s clear the Democratic establishment trusts her nonetheless.

Fried gave money to Moody and Putnam out of “friendship,” she said.

“I don’t align with their political views at all,” Fried notes.

When she gave to Moody, she didn’t know if she was a “D or an R.” In the case of Putnam, who seems diametrically opposed to Fried on many issues, she clearly knew his political leanings when she cut a check in 2014.

“We know each other from Leadership,” Fried said. “I gave him $250. I do not support him on many of these issues … and have chastised him” for various positions, including but not limited to medical cannabis and “how he’s handled the concealed weapons process.”

She believes Putnam has “not been a servant to the public.”

“I keep hearing time and time again,” Fried said, regarding failure in both agricultural and consumer service enforcement.

“There has been a lack of responsiveness,” Fried said, on environmental, water, and other issues in “this current administration.”

Fried faces Jeff Porter and Roy David Walker in the Democratic primary on Aug. 28. If she gets through that, she will face one of three Republicans (Reps. Baxter TroutmanMatt Caldwell, or Sen. Denise Grimsley) in what will be an expensive November race.

Nancy Soderberg touts experience, bipartisan approach in first CD 6 ad

Former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg is the best-funded candidate in the race for Florida’s 6th Congressional District, and this week she has started putting some of that cash to work by hitting the airwaves with her first TV ad.

The 30-second spot, “Hurdles,” pitches the Democratic candidate as a problem solver by pointing to her experience as an Ambassador to the United Nations and as Deputy National Security Adviser during the Clinton administration.

That track record, the ad says, shows Soderberg would engage with both sides of the aisle in finding solutions for some of Washington’s more intractable problems, such as affordable health care.

“Everyone faces hurdles. Lord knows I have,” Soderberg says as she strolls along a running track replete with hurdles. “I helped bring Northern Ireland’s opposing sides together to secure peace. As a diabetic, I was denied health insurance. I was one of the first to say ‘let’s get [Osama] bin Laden.

“Let’s bring both parties together to deal with hurdles like unaffordable health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare. Hurdles don’t phase me, I’m about solutions,” she concludes while tipping over a hurdle.

In announcing the inaugural TV ad, Soderberg said she was “running to make Congress work for the people again” before hitting many of the same notes as the ad.

“I’ve taken on terrorists, negotiated with allies, and helped bring peace to a warring nation. In Congress, I’ll bring both sides to the table to fight efforts to cut health care, create jobs you can raise a family on, and protect Social Security and Medicare,” she said. “The people of Central Florida have been ignored for too long, and they deserve a representative who will fight for them.”

Not mentioned in the press release: Details on the media buy that’s backing it up.

Soderberg is the top fundraiser running for CD 6 with nearly $1.5 million raised and about $1 million in the bank at the end of the second quarter, though her primary opponent, Ormond Beach physician Stephen Sevigny, has brought in six-figure hauls as well and recently started rolling out his own suite of television ads.

A recent public poll put Soderberg atop the three-way Democratic primary contest with 30 percent support, followed by John Upchurch at 13 percent and Sevigny at 10 percent, with the rest of those polled saying they were undecided.

The winner of that contest has an uphill climb in the general election, however the outlook isn’t as dour for Democrats as in past cycles. CD 6 is currently held by U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is giving it up to run for Governor. With no incumbent, high fundraising on the Democratic side and an expected boost in turnout among Democratic voters, a flip isn’t out of the question.

Running for the Republican nomination are former state Rep. Fred Costello, Fox News personality Michael Waltz and businessman John Ward. Waltz and Ward have each crossed the $1 million mark in total fundraising thanks to a hefty amount of self-funding.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams endorses Ron DeSantis

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams endorsed U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis for Governor late Wednesday, breaking with almost 50 elected sheriffs and police unions that have long since backed Adam Putnam.

“I am pleased to endorse Ron DeSantis for Governor of Florida.  I greatly respect his military service in the United States Navy in Iraq,” Williams asserted.

“When I talk with Ron DeSantis, his view of law enforcement mirrors my own: protecting innocent citizens and holding bad actors accountable. I believe that as Governor Ron DeSantis will prioritize law enforcement and will be good for the citizens of Jacksonville.  I am proud to offer him my support,” Williams added.

This endorsement came on the same day the head of the local Fraternal Order of Police was waving signs for Putnam outside the Jacksonville debate.

Two other major Northeast Florida players, state Senate Appropriations chairman Rob Bradley and his Clay County colleague, Rep. Travis Cummings, endorsed DeSantis Wednesday ahead of the debate.

Meanwhile, one other major Northeast Florida endorsement, that of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, still waits to be conferred.

Curry’s mayoral chief of staff, Brian Hughes, was watching the debate with Curry’s political adviser Tim Baker from the balcony Wednesday evening.

Hughes and Baker ran DeSantis’ 2012 campaign for Congress, suggesting there may be an opportunity for synergy on that front also.

Lenny Curry re-election fundraising slows to $110K in July

Even as rumblings persist that Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche is eyeing the 2019 mayoral race, incumbent Lenny Curry continues actively fundraising and running ads.

July was Curry’s weakest month since announcing he wanted four more years, with Curry bringing in $85,000 to his Jacksonville on the Rise political committee and an additional $24,950 to his campaign account.

The $109,950 haul brings Curry up to just under $382,000 in the campaign account ($395,000 raised) and another $1,501,000 in the committee pot ($1.95 million raised).

Curry, running an active campaign against nominal competition, has nearly $2 million on hand.

The more interesting donors were on the committee side.

Names to be filed away for future reference include Auld and White ($25,000); mainstay Fidelity National Financial ($25,000); Dream Finders LLC ($20,000) and BNY Mellon and its subsidiary Pershing Advisor Solutions ($20,000 total).

Between them, Curry’s four opponents have under $1,200 on hand.

The first election is in March. Should one candidate not get a majority of the vote, the top two face off in May.

Incumbent Tommy Hazouri, unopposed for Jacksonville City Council, wows with $29K July

Former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri, a Democrat running for reelection to the City Council, showed strong fundraising from diverse sources for his second straight month, suggesting that any 2019 challenge will be futile.

Hazouri pulled in $29,750 in July, pushing his total fundraising above $85,000, with more than $83,000 of that on hand.

He is running unopposed.

Former Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver joined current owner Shad Khan and his lobbyist, Paul Harden, in making maximum $1,000 donations to Hazouri — just a sample of Republican support for Hazouri, which includes former Jacksonville City Councilman Stephen Joost.

The local police and fire unions also maxed out for Hazouri, as did pillars of the donor class such as Steve Halverson and Sleiman Holdings,

Lobbyists, via the Fiorentino Group, also featured.

The most unexpected name in the 56 contributions? Vito Stellino, a former Florida Times-Union sportswriter.

Hazouri faced opposition from the left and the right in 2015, but this time around, it appears that his base of support is too broad for anyone to even jump into this one.

How Adam Putnam could have home-field advantage over Ron DeSantis during Jacksonville debate

On Wednesday night, Jacksonville will play host to what likely is the last major stand for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the race for Governor.

Putnam’s debate at Jacksonville University with U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis is a make-or-break moment if one is still possible in this race.

The Real Clear Politics polling average, which includes polls conducted before President Donald Trump unambiguously endorsed DeSantis at a rally, has DeSantis up 11 points. A late-July Mason-Dixon poll likewise saw a 12 point spread.

The race could stay there. It could, at least theoretically, get closer if Putnam’s ground game strategy continues without abatement.

Or the spread could get worse.

What we know: Ballots are coming in already, and the polls reflect a snapshot of a race that is already being decided.

All is not lost for Putnam, however. Even if donors ranging from bestbet to Foley and Lardner are hedging their bets, Jacksonville could — in theory — allow him to change the narrative.

On Monday, he won the Jacksonville Young Republicans straw poll over DeSantis 75-2. While there were caveats (Putnam showed up and stumped for the vote, as part of what have been three straight days in a city that has 1/20th of the state’s population), a win is a win.

Even if some people at the event were saying, quietly, that the race was already over, the reality is that DeSantis didn’t even have representation at the event.

The donors may be moving. The polls may be upside down. But for Putnam supporters, Jacksonville offers a silver lining: a debate on Florida issues in front of a live crowd, one composed of insider types who invested energy into the idea of Adam Putnam as governor.

Depending on how lively that crowd is, there could be a real home-court advantage for Putnam (despite DeSantis’ wife, Casey Black DeSantis, being a local television personality of long standing).

The most useful analogue to what this advantage can offer, if all plays out as it should, was the third and final Jacksonville mayoral debate between Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry in 2015, where the crowd effects were felt early and often.

Both Brown and Curry had active supporters, with dueling chants and the like ahead of the event outside the hall.

Inside the hall, moderator Kent Justice reminded the crowd, as he typically does, to abstain from demonstrations.

By and large, that happened. However, the Curry people — many of the same young Republicans who back Putnam today — were just a bit less reserved than the Brown supporters.

If you are a Putnam supporter, if you really believe in Adam Putnam as the only acceptable Republican nominee, what’s going to stop you from making noise for your candidate? From disparaging DeSantis at a key moment?

It’s live television. And live television allows for audience participation.

By definition, the Gen Y and millennial types who support a candidate like Putnam have buried whatever passes for their anarchic streak deep down. However, what’s to stop them from a well-placed boo, catcall, or Bronx cheer at a pivotal moment?

The crowd made noise on Curry’s behalf a couple of times in 2015. Brown, never a natural debater, was rattled.

While DeSantis is no Alvin Brown, the fact remains that in a race where the formerly inevitable Putnam has been divested of advantages as time has gone on, the Jacksonville crowd may be the Congressman’s final stumbling block before getting the nomination.

The debate starts at 8. But there will be strong indications of how pro-Putnam the crowd is well before that.

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