Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams both showed quiet February fundraising for their re-election bids.
Curry, who filed this month for re-election, did not report fundraising yet for his campaign account. The same holds true for the local “Jacksonville on the Rise” committee set up to support the re-election (though with a six-figure ad buy, it follows that committee will have impressive March numbers.)
Curry’s statewide “Build Something That Lasts” committee did register fundraising; however, with $12,500 brought in ($10,000 of which came from Ed Burr), it was the single slowest month for that account since Dec. 2016.
The account spent $12,803, mostly on consultant fees, though there was $1,000 given to City Council candidate Rose Conry.
All told, the committee still has over $600,000 cash on hand. And Curry lacks a credible opponent.
Like his counterpart in the Mayor’s Office, Sheriff Williams had a slow month, but it ultimately won’t matter.
Williams’s committee brought in just $1,000, leaving it with $194,000 as February ended.
Williams brought in $10,000 in hard money off 10 maximum $1,000 contributions, giving him $148,000 in his campaign account; Vestcor and Gate Petroleum were among the donors.
Williams’ opponent, Democrat TonyCummings,raised nothing in February, and has just $260 cash on hand.
Does “implicit bias” affect law enforcement? The justice system at large?
On Thursday evening at Edward Waters College, a five-person panel of local experts (Chief Judge Mark H. Mahon, State Attorney Melissa Nelson, Public Defender Charlie Cofer, Sheriff Mike Williams, Senior District Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. and A. Wellington Barlow, Esq.) will explore the concept, under the aegis of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association.
The most interesting parties in the discussion, at least in terms of the general audience, likely will be Nelson and Cofer (both elected in 2016) and Williams (elected the year before).
Each of the three has had to embrace reform in both rhetoric and policy, especially Nelson, who replaced hardliner Angela Corey as State Attorney.
The Florida Times-Unionnoted earlier this week that Nelson’s office is one of four nationwide whose metrics are being tracked with an eye toward how this bias manifests in outcomes.
“They’ll take a look at questions of bias in our work,” Nelson said about the study, “and depending on what they find, we’ll take it and it’ll inform how we train our lawyers and what we do.”
Meanwhile, Sheriff Williams’ office has come under fire for inconsistent applications of pedestrian ticketing laws, with a disproportionate amount of citations for jaywalking and the like written in African-American neighborhoods.
Williams has insisted that there are no ticket quotas, and has pushed back against primary reporting from the Times-Union and ProPublica on the topic.
Expect a lively turnout for Thursday’s event, which kicks off at 6 p.m. at EWC’s Milne Auditorium.
The 2018 Legislative Session finally wrapped. Now, in front of us, the madcap dash to the 2018 primaries in August is about to hit full stride.
For Jacksonville area voters, especially Democrats, these are exciting times. From competitive races for Congress to state Senate and state House, there are choices on the ballot. And narratives.
We will have them all for you in the coming months.
Speaking of that Legislative Session, Jacksonville did relatively well — $12.5 million, to be precise, for the Talleyrand Connector.
And we even have good news on other topics … including the right to yell DUUUUUUU-VALL … which (apparently) was in doubt.
Northeast Florida among Session’s big winners
Nobody expected a tragedy like Parkland to suck all the oxygen out of the Legislature’s Regular Session. Lobbyists were left scrambling to save their clients’ priorities as lawmakers hustled to rejigger the budget to accommodate hundreds of millions of dollars for school safety and mental health initiatives.
Some survived, many did not; although that’s no different from any other 60-day tumble in the Capitol.
That said, the past year has been an eventful one for Northeast Florida: Rob Bradley became Appropriations Chairman and performed like a seasoned professional. Future House Speaker Paul Renner capably handled his chamber’s tax package. Sen. Travis Hutson took some major steps toward becoming a future presiding officer.
And don’t forget Sen. Audrey Gibson, who ascended to the role of Leader-designate of the Senate Democrats.
If only there were a Jacksonville-based lobbying firm that works with them all … oh wait, there is — The Fiorentino Group, as well as Southern Strategy Group’s Matt Brockelman and Deno Hicks.
Lawson talks access to capital in Jacksonville
At the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Monday Morning, Rep. Al Lawson and Rep. James Comer helmed a Congressional field hearing for the Small Business Committee regarding access to capital disparities.
Access to capital disparities disproportionately impact female and minority-owned businesses, and the hearing in Jacksonville was intended to discuss potential remedies to the challenge.
“Capital is the lifeblood of any business,” Lawson said, noting that the average African-American startup is 18 percent less likely than white business owners to get help from the lending industry.
“Investors are predisposed to a preference to people who are similar to them,” Lawson added, and to that end, Monday’s hearing was intended to help women and minority-owned businesses voice their needs in the marketplace.
Brown appeals conviction
For great moments in ironic ledes, check out this chestnut from Roll Call:
The similarities between former House members and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers are few. But disgraced former Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida and Jon Bon Jovi are both livin’ on a prayer.
Last week, Brown’s attorney filed a 76-page appeal to her conviction on fraud and tax evasion charges, saying the judge in the case wrongfully removed a juror who claimed a “higher power” told him Brown was not guilty,
“The district court reversibly erred when it questioned a juror who had voted to acquit Congresswoman Brown,” the appeal states, “and then dismissed the juror over [a] defense objection based on nothing more than the juror having prayed for guidance and [believing] that he received guidance from the Holy Spirit that Congresswoman Brown was not guilty.”
Appeals on these grounds so far have flopped, and this one likely will also. Notable: prosecutors objected to the motion, saying it went over word count.
Fundraisers for Levine, Gillum
Two major Democratic candidates for Governor plan Jacksonville-area stops this week, as fundraising efforts continue for the August primary.
Philip Levine plans a “cocktail party” event Thursday evening, with a nascent host committee including Mark Frisch, Matt Kane and Ted Stein, among others.
The event honoring the Miami Beach Mayor will be at the Beaches Museum in Jacksonville Beach and will kick off at 6 p.m.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum will have his own Jacksonville area event as well, from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, at the home of Erica and Colin Connor in Ponte Vedra Beach.
A minimum $50 buy-in is requested to attend the Gillum affair.
Levine and Gillum have had different approaches to campaign finance in this campaign.
Levine has spent over $4.6 million of personal funds on his campaign.
Gillum, without recourse to that kind of personal wealth, has had slower fundraising than other significant candidates and had just under $800,000 cash on hand.
Talleyrand Connector cash leads budget haul
Unless Gov. Rick Scott casts a surprising veto, it looks as if Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry will get state money for the “Talleyrand Connector,” which tears down the current Hart Bridge offramps that would activate Bay Street and help traffic flow to the port.
As the Florida Times-Union reported, $12.5 million of state money made it into the budget. Curry had personally lobbied regional and state power brokers and the capital moved from a $1 million placeholder to the full appropriation sought.
Jacksonville still seeks other money — specifically, $25 million from the Feds for an infrastructure grant — but city officials tell us that they could begin the project with the state money regardless.
By far, the Talleyrand money was the most prominent get from the state in this year’s budget.
“Senators approved it after barely 10 minutes of discussion. Immediately after, Sen. Dennis Baxley … walked across the Senate floor to shake Bradley’s hand,” the Times article asserted.
“I don’t think anybody’s rights or responsibilities changed with what we did,” Bradley said. “What we did is ensure that there will not be litigation on these questions.”
Record dings Hutson for last-minute ‘stealth annexation’ try
Sen. Hutson ran afoul of the St. Augustine Record this week for attempting to move some St. Johns County land that is part of the Nocatee land tract to Duval County.
The reason: The owners of the land (the Davises of Winn-Dixie fame) want the property in Duval.
The charge: “Nocatee has been given a pass by County Commissioners over the years to gut the affordable and workforce housing components and to renege on all its plans to put commercial property within the development. Perhaps more correctly, Nocatee is locating nearly all its commercial component into the sliver of land that juts into Duval County. Apparently, Duval might be considerably more zoning and impact fee-affable than we are.”
The plan failed this session … however, the Record vows vigilance.
“Much more likely is they saw that the window for approval was closing too quickly — and word got out. Better to quietly yank if from the bill and find another way to skin that cat next session. We bet they’ll be trying. You can bet we’ll be watching.”
Slow February in legislative fundraising
February offered a unique opportunity for people running against incumbents, who can’t fundraise during the Legislative Session, to make up ground in fundraising.
But — at least in competitive Northeast Florida races — they didn’t take up the gauntlet.
SD 6: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown raised no money in February, his first month challenging Sen. Audrey Gibson for the Democratic Party nomination. Gibson, who couldn’t raise money, has $121,410 on hand.
HD 12: Republican Clay Yarborough has over $122,000 on hand, despite not being able to fundraise in February. Democrat Tim Yost, who did fundraise in February, brought in $1,429 and had $3,300 cash on hand.
HD 13: Incumbent Democrat Tracie Davis has $35,715 on hand; her intraparty challenger, Roshanda Jackson, was in the race for five days in February and spent not one of them fundraising.
With roughly a year before first elections in 2019 Jacksonville City Council races, now’s a good time to take a look at fundraising in selected races through February.
With $8,400 of new money in February, Matt Carlucci, a former Council Republican running for at-large Group 4, is still the clubhouse leader with just over $221,000 raised. Carlucci’s opponent, fellow former Council Republican Don Redman, has a lot of ground to make up. Word on the street is there will be more candidates in this one.
As we reported last week, Republican Ron Salem has over $150,000 on hand in at-large Group 2. This number puts him well ahead of former Jacksonville Councilman Bill Bishop. Bishop raised just $2,000 and has just over $13,200 on hand. Democrat Darren Mason only entered the race in March.
In Jacksonville City Council District 14, Democrat Sunny Gettinger showed respectable first-month fundraising numbers in February, bringing in over $34,000. Gettinger still has a way to go to catch Republican Randy DeFoor, who raised $4,350 in March, and has nearly $90,000 on hand.
The Florida Times-Union spotlights one of Jacksonville’s best-known nonprofits, Operation New Hope.
The Donald Trump administration has taken notice. Weeks after CEO Kevin Gay met with Jared Kushner to talk prison re-entry, the Springfield group hosted HUD Secretary Ben Carson doing a roundtable with former inmates who reformed their lives and got jobs with JAXPORT.
“It is the most bipartisan issue that our country has now,” Gay said. “Our country just needs something that we can all come around on. I don’t care where you are on the spectrum. Who can argue with improving public safety?”
As Florida Politics reported last week, Carson’s comments were a breath of fresh air from a Republican administration that postures as a law and order shop. Carson spoke at length about the penal system’s effects on young black men.
“Purely looking at the cost of someone who is incarcerated versus someone who is trying to bolster the economy,” Carson noted, “the difference is night and day. When we start to think about it that way, what it costs to train somebody, what it costs for someone to go to college, it costs more to keep somebody incarcerated.”
“It’s also costing us their own positive contributions and one of the things we need to realize about our young people is that we have so many in our penal system, particularly young black males, is that for every one we can keep from going down that path of self-destruction, it’s one less person we need to be afraid of or protect our family from,” Carson added.
Pinto named ’40 under 40′
This week, the Jacksonville Business Journal named Mark Pinto of the Fiorentino Group among 40 of Northeast Florida’s brightest, most promising professionals under the age of 40.
In 2012, Pinto served as the Special Assistant to then-Republican Party of Florida Chair Curry, where he worked with House and Senate Leadership, members of the Florida Cabinet, and the Governor’s Office.
Pinto began his political career with Florida Senate President-designate Bill Galvano of Bradenton during his tenure as Rules Chair of the Florida House. He worked on Galvano’s first political campaign and served as his aide in the House.
Prior to his service in the House, Pinto worked for former Congressman Dan Miller, also from Bradenton, and has been active in local, state, and national politics, and has volunteered and raised funds for numerous political campaigns. He also recently served on the St. Johns County Chamber Economic Development Council.
Fanatics owner mulls NFL team purchase
Jacksonville’s Fanatics had all but cornered the market on licensed sports apparel. And soon, its owner may be moving from clothing to owning a franchise.
Per the Florida Times-Union: Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin is seriously interested in making a run at owning the Carolina Panthers.
“Rubin would be entering a somewhat crowded field of bidders for the Panthers, who were put up for sale by owner Jerry Richardson late last year following allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct. According to ESPN, other bidders include a hedge fund billionaire and the founder and CEO of a debt collection firm.”
“Rubin, 45, is worth an estimated $3 billion by Forbes and would be a familiar name to the league’s other owners. Last May, the NFL invested $95 million for a 3 percent stake in Fanatics. That deal boosted Fanatics’ value to more than $3.17 billion at the time.”
DUUUUUVALLL for Y’all
Another piece of football news. In March, no less.
First Coast News reports that “The Jaguars, who caught flak from local groups after trademarking the phrase, “Duuuval,” have seemingly dropped the trademark tag from their social media after receiving criticism for the move.”
From the Jags: “It’s important to note that the Jaguars have not submitted an application to register the wordmark ‘DUUUVAL.’ The only actions taken to date were intended to protect our ability to continue to use this specific wordmark to promote our fan base and our team in the future, given that it became associated with our fans and the team on a national level this past season. In addition, even if we were to seek trademark registration, it would not prohibit any fan from continuing to say or use the word Duval in general.”
Long story short, keep yelling it from the mountaintop.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry made a trip to Washington D.C. earlier this week, and has been the case before, he met with members of the Donald Trump administration.
The subject, as it so often has been, was infrastructure — both the Talleyrand Connector project that the city seeks $25 million for in infrastructure money via the Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, and other local infrastructure projects.
“Mayor Curry’s meetings were in regards to the Talleyrand Connector, as well as to advocate for Jacksonville infrastructure as a whole, and the priorities that he has laid out,” asserted Curry spokesperson Tia Ford Wednesday afternoon in response to inquiries from this outlet.
Decisions on the grant are expected to be made “soon,” per Ford, who said that Curry thought the meetings went “very well.”
The Talleyrand Connector money, should it come through from the Trump administration, will offer major funding for a wishlist item for the Curry administration dating back to 2016. The alterations to the Hart Bridge Expressway are purported to improve traffic flow, including for trucks bound to and from the port.
Curry had met last year with Trump administration members discussing the same project, including intergovernmental affairs staffers and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
The state budget, which currently is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott‘s review, has an additional $12.5 million for the project.
When asked about the line item Tuesday, Gov. Scott would not commit to it, despite Curry having lobbied him personally on it.
“So the budget came out on Sunday. We’re starting the process to review the budget. I look through it line by line. There’s about 4,000 lines to the budget, and my goal is to make sure all taxpayers get a return on those investments,” Scott said.
If the state and federal money comes through, Jacksonville will have $37.5 million of outside money for the Talleyrand Connector project, a strong illustration of how Curry leverages relationships throughout government for his administration’s priorities.
Wednesday saw a Jacksonville City Council committee delve deeper into the concept of using local inmate work crews to clean up city streets.
The concept is not a new one. A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office undersheriff noted just last year that there were plenty of inmates, but a surfeit of supervisors in the budget.
At the time, the JSO voiced a preference for correctional officers as supervisors, as civilians “don’t look at the dope man and say ‘hey, get away from my crew’,” and because sexual contact had occurred in recent months between women inmates and civilian supervisors.
This set up Wednesday’s panel discussion on “utilization of inmates with tipping communities.”
Chairman Reggie Brown asked “wouldn’t it be nice to get inmates … to clean up the area” in downtown and other parts of town.
Assistant JSO Chief Claude Colvin noted that since 2008, the move has been toward four 10 hour days, a response to budget cuts after the recession.
He has one officer and four inmates at his disposal; the inmates are a rotating crew, Colvin noted, and often require training and specific classifications. 100 inmates currently qualify. Violent offenders or pedophiles do not qualify.
Colvin noted that, despite these budget cuts, inmates have been used for labor that has achieved budget cuts. After a hurricane, they were even involved in demolition of a barge.
Colvin would like two more community officer positions, to augment the current one he has access to.
“We actually have less inmates this year than what we had last year,” Colvin said, though he eventually would like to have five officers to command the crews, with a priority toward clearing areas used for drug dealing and the like.
Council members lamented that they couldn’t earmark officers toward this specific purpose, as use of appropriations is up to the sheriff’s office; however, they sought to explore alternative supervisory setups, such as the Salvation Army.
“We had this very conversation with the sheriff last year,” said Councilwoman Lori Boyer, “and he did not want us directing the use of his resources.”
Leasing officers was another potential mechanism explored.
While part-time positions have been allocated in the budget ($17.25 per hour), Chief Colvin noted that officers “don’t want to come out of retirement to manage inmates,” and they didn’t want to work in the elements, so they went unfilled. [One suggestion from the chair: to hike the pay to $25 an hour.]
Inmates are already going out with other city entities, such as right of way and grounds for ditch cleanup and the like, which Colvin said “does enhance the city of Jacksonville.”
Council members located $45,000 in a local law enforcement trust fund, and Councilwoman Boyer noted that cleanup crews would fall under the aegis of safer neighborhoods.
Wednesday saw the first meeting of Jacksonville’s new “civil rights history task force,” a 28-person group that seeks to affirm — or more correctly, to promote and monetize — the city’s place in civil rights history.
The genesis of the task force was earlier this year, when locals were irked by the city not being included on the U.S. Civil Rights Heritage Trail, which covers 14 states and 100 landmarks, made notable between 1955 and 1968.
Co-chair Warren Jones noted that inclusion on the trail would be a potential boost to tourism, kicking off an occasionally spirited discussion among the sprawling group that was as much a marketing 101 class as a historical discussion.
Council President Anna Brosche, who filed the legislation to form the task force, noted that Jacksonville’s “rich history” mandates that Jacksonville be on the Heritage Trail and that despite the large board, others wanted to be on it.
“Of the 18 inductees to Florida’s Civil Rights Hall of Fame, six of them are from Jacksonville,” Brosche noted.
Task force member Monica Smith, also of Visit Jacksonville, noted that the states involved are part of Travel South USA, which “markets the south for tourism efforts.”
The civil rights trail concept kicked off in Alabama, Smith said, with other Travel South USA states signing on to the idea, which is intended to educate young people regarding the civil rights struggle from generations gone by.
“Visit Florida is not a member of the Travel South USA organization,” Smith said.
She called Ken Lawson of Visit Florida, and learned that the process would be longer than she thought given the genesis of the civil rights trail concept; however, future destinations may be added as early as next year.
“Visit Florida is going to do what they need to do to become part of Travel South USA,” Smith said, and will support local efforts.
At least one board member was “irritated” by what he perceived to be an “audition period” and “hoops to jump through” for the trail, noting that Florida has as much civil rights history as anywhere.
Smith noted that Jacksonville or the state could form its own program, a parallel to the “marketing effort” of the Travel South USA affiliates.
Chairman Warren Jones suggested engaging state legislators to this end, with a potential local “black heritage trail” as a corollary option, even as other board members noted the irony of cities that tried to suppress civil rights now looking to profit off the commemoration of the struggle.
A member of the city planning department offered a lengthy recitation of a timeline from 1945 to the early 1970s; once he wrapped, board members thanked him for reading, then said significant revisions would be needed.
Jacksonville’s biggest priority in the 2018 state budget came through in the form of $12.5 million for the Talleyrand Connector.
The money, which is a full 25 percent of that needed for a project that would include tearing down Hart Bridge offramps to both route traffic onto Bay Street and facilitate truck traffic to the Jacksonville port, was something for which Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry lobbied both state lawmakers and the Governor in late January.
Yet, despite Curry having made the case to him personally, Scott wouldn’t commit Tuesday to not vetoing the money from the budget.
“So the budget came out on Sunday. We’re starting the process to review the budget. I look through it line by line. There’s about 4,000 lines to the budget, and my goal is to make sure all taxpayers get a return on those investments,” Scott said before wrapping the gaggle.
Scott was in Jacksonville signing a couple of bills that would benefit veterans.
The other highlight of the Tuesday gaggle was the Governor’s defense of a gun control bill he signed Sunday, one that now sees the state sued by the National Rifle Association.
February offered a unique opportunity for people running against incumbents, who can’t fundraise during the Legislative Session, to make up ground in fundraising.
But — at least in competitive Northeast Florida races — they didn’t take up the gauntlet.
SD 4: Incumbent Aaron Bean couldn’t fundraise in February, and has $88,000 cash on hand in his campaign account, in addition to $106,000 in the account of his “Florida Conservative Alliance” political committee.
SD 6: Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown raised no money in February, his first month challenging Sen. Audrey Gibson for the Democratic party nomination. Gibson, who couldn’t raise money, has $121,410 on hand.
HD 11: Incumbent Republican Cord Byrd has over $33,000 on hand currently, and now faces a Democrat. Natchelly Rohrbaugh entered the race Mar. 1, and will file his first campaign finance report in April.
HD 12: Republican Clay Yarborough has over $122,000 on hand, despite not being able to fundraise in February. Democrat Tim Yost, who did fundraise in February, brought in $1,429 and has $3,300 cash on hand.
HD 13: Incumbent Democrat Tracie Davis has $35,715 on hand; her intraparty challenger, Roshanda Jackson, was in the race for five days in February and spent none of them fundraising.
HD 14: Incumbent Democrat Kim Daniels has just under $15,000 on hand. Daniels’ NPA challenger Darcy Richardson actually did fundraise in his first month in the race, raising $4,755.
HD 15: A wide-open race, given that incumbent Rep. Jay Fant is running for Attorney General, with three Republicans and one Democrat in the mix.
The Republican candidate of longest standing, lawyer Wyman Duggan, had his weakest month of fundraising yet. $2,025 of new money keeps Duggan above $95,000 on hand.
Yacht broker Mark Zeigler, new to the race, raised just $55 in his first few days as a candidate. Joseph Hogan filed this month and will report his first fundraising next month.
Democrat Tracye Polson raised $5,790 in February but continued her high burn rate, spending $5,200 on consultants. Between fundraising and loans, she has raised over $116,000 and has $77,000 left in hard money. Additionally, she has $10,000 in her “Better Jacksonville” political committee.
HD 16: Incumbent Republican Jason Fischer has no electoral competition. He has over $88,000 in hard money and another $40,000 in his “Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville” political committee.
HD 17: Incumbent Republican Cyndi Stevenson will go unchallenged. She has $82,000 in hard money.
HD 18: Incumbent Republican Travis Cummings will face no competition. He has $85,000 in hard money.