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Duval Republicans fall in line behind Ron DeSantis with big-ticket fundraiser

Duval County was the epicenter of some of the most savage attacks against Ron DeSantis in the Republican Gubernatorial primary.

Many prominent Republicans, including U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, state Rep. Cord Byrd, and Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman, strongly backed Adam Putnam.

And in an illustration of the ultimate utility of straw polls, Putnam’s forces engineeered a 75-2 victory over DeSantis in the Jacksonville Young Republicans straw poll weeks before the election.

However, the candidate who “knew Florida best” didn’t prevail. And Jacksonville area Republicans will have a chance later this month to get right with the nominee, via a star-studded funder at the tony Ponte Vedra Country Club Sept. 26.

Driving DeSantis’ Northeast Florida finance efforts: Kent StermonJohn Rood, and Jay Demetree. Expectations are that this event could exceed Rick Scott‘s take eight years ago in similar circumstances.

DeSantis, who at least temporarily is behind Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum in fundraising, will seek to close the gap with the help of some of Jacksonville’s deepest pocketed patrons and most prominent local pols.

The host committee (still in formation) includes local powerbrokers: JEA Board member Husein Cumber (a strong fundraiser going back to the George W. Bush administration) is on board, as is lobbyist Marty Fiorentino, and Jamie and Ali Shelton of bestbet fame, the aforementioned Stermon/Rood/Demetree troika.

Also expected to be on board: Peter Rummell and Tom Petway, two more bulwarks of the Northeast Florida donor class.

Co-chairs include former Duval GOP Chair John Falconetti and former Congressional candidate Hans Tanzler III.

But it’s the honorary host category that shows the greatest party unity, as many of its members were on Team Putnam.

Sen. Aaron Bean, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, and former U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw are all now on DeSantis’ side, joining Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams, and Rep. Travis Cummings (who endorsed DeSantis before the primary).

The decision is pragmatic. Where else are they going to go?

But after a vituperative primary fight, one full of colorful turns of phrase and de rigueur character assassination, it’s worth noting how quickly the healing begins for Duval Republicans.

For those interested in RSVPing, contact Brianna Jordan (Brianna@FrontStreetFlorida.com) or Heather Barker (Heather@RonDeSantis.com).

Ron DeSantis was underwater in district before resigning, poll asserts

Republican Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis resigned his Congressional seat earlier this week, and if one Democratic poll is correct, that was fine with people in his district.

Nancy Soderberg, the Democrat running for what now is an open seat in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, released a poll showing DeSantis was underwater.

“Voters in this district have even turned away from their current representative and Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who earns only 37 percent favorable rating while 44 percent rate him unfavorably,” the Soderberg polling memo asserted.

In that polling memo, Soderberg was highlighting her own dead heat with Republican nominee Mike Waltz; however, the findings regarding DeSantis are notable in microcosm, given that President Donald Trump won that district by 17 points in 2016, and given that DeSantis’ margin of victory was at least 16 points in all three general elections.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and included 400 likely voters Sep. 4-6. MOE was 4.9 percent.

The survey assumed a +7 Republican electorate: 42 percent GOP, 35 percent Democrat, and NPA voters making up the balance.

Soderberg did not want to share the party or gender breaks of the poll data relative to DeSantis; however, with 37 percent approval, one could assume some shear with independent and even Republican voters.

Soderberg also has a money lead in the race, and has messaged aggressively in the general election campaign about Waltz essentially being a continuation of DeSantis’ tenure.

“As the country moves forward, candidates like DeSantis and Waltz are stuck in the past,” Soderberg said today, during a call where Democrats excoriated his 2013 vote against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a 1994 bill that federalized protections for women.

Nancy Soderberg, Michael Waltz plan two debates

Democrat Nancy Soderberg and Republican Michael Waltz in Florida’s 6th Congressional District will have two debates between now and Election Day.

The Soderberg campaign announced Wednesday that WESH-TV would host the first debate on Oct. 2.

The second debate. hosted by Stetson University and Daytona Beach News-Journal, has yet to be finalized.

“The families of Florida’s 6th District want a representative who listens to them, who understands their struggles, and who will be a staunch advocate for their interests in Congress,” Soderberg said.

“Debates are an important part of our discourse in American politics. They give us the opportunity to take our message directly to voters and to address the challenges they and their families are facing. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to debate Michael Waltz on stage, and to let folks here see for themselves the clear differences of direction and leadership we are offering voters,” Soderberg added.

Soderberg and Waltz are running to succeed Ron DeSantis, who resigned last week to focus on running for Governor.

Though the district has been historically Republican, Soderberg has reasons for confidence.

The former Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations has raised over $2 million (nearly double Waltz’s haul), and is polling in a dead heat with Waltz, a former Green Beret and aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Ethics Commission finds probable cause, again, against Kim Daniels

The Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause last week that state Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Jacksonville Democrat, filed inaccurate 2012, 2013, and 2014 Form 6 disclosure forms.

Daniels was a member of the Jacksonville City Council at the time.

“This was just a probable cause finding. This complaint is now in the hands of the Commission Advocate who prosecutes cases on behalf of the Commission,” noted Kerrie Stillman on behalf of the Ethics Commission.

The path forward could include a full evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge, if a settlement isn’t reached, Stillman added.

A similar complaint had been dismissed for lack of jurisdiction months back, Stillman said, as it was filed within 30 days of Jacksonville’s 2015 election.

At issue: alleged omitted disclosures on 2012-2014 financial disclosure forms, including mortgages for properties that belonged to her church.

Daniels failed to list properties owned by her churches, which added up to $1,000,000 of undeclared assets. Indeed, her churches had multiple properties — “parsonages” in multiple cities, timeshares, and over a dozen cars.

Daniels was re-elected in the Democratic primary in August, defeating Duval County School Board chair Paula Wright despite the local party leaning in favor of Wright’s campaign.

Because there were no GOP or NPA candidates, the open primary was decisive.

Lenny Curry ‘Sacksonville’ branding takes a hit with intellectual property dispute

The Jacksonville Jaguars returned to prominence in 2017, and Mayor Lenny Curry — the team’s most high-profile fan — was along for the ride.

In December 2017, Curry went so far as to issue a mayoral proclamation — deeming defensive end Calais Campbell the “Mayor of Sacksonville.”

The city and the mayor capitalized on the co-branding. As the Jaguars’ launched their playoff run, ESPN took interest in the Sacksonville brand.

“We are heading down to Jacksonville this week to speak to the Jaguars defensive line, and Calais Campbell, who last month you proclaimed as the ‘Mayor of Sacksonville.’ Would you have a window of availability any time on Thursday or Friday to be interviewed on camera about your proclamation,” the producer wrote.

As the Jaguars move into a year in which they and the Sacksonville brand are feted by the league, a former Jaguar (linebacker Dan Skuta) contests the team’s attempt to trademark the brand.

Skuta first established the brand in 2015, and per his legal filing, merchandised the Sacksonville brand. The brand, which Skuta’s company had failed to trademark, was compromised when the Jaguars began to appropriate the hashtag.

There is an active legal challenge, but the glacial pacing of it suggests that it is likely that Sacksonville will find its place next to Dilly Dilly in the cultural graveyard before it is resolved. The current schedule has an oral hearing set for March 2020.

However, the trademark dispute illustrates both the fungible nature of NFL careers and how quickly a trademark can move from obscurity to prominence.

We’ve reached out to the Jaguars and Curry for comment, and will update when we hear.

Duval Elections Supervisor to decide this week on early voting site at University of North Florida

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan told Florida Politics on Wednesday that he hopes to decide by Friday whether Duval follows other counties’ lead and opens an early voting site at the University of North Florida.

Hogan noted in a meeting in August that there were potential logistical issues with UNF, including public access, adequate parking for staff and voters, facility security, ADA compliance, proximity to other early voting sites, and room in the budget.

Jacksonville Democrats, including City Councilman Garrett Dennis, charged that not opening a site amounted to disenfranchisement for voters.

Dennis has noted the trend of opening sites at universities and goaded Hogan Wednesday.

Florida Atlantic University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida are all slated to host early voting before Election Day this year.

However, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel notes, Miami-Dade’s Florida International University will not follow suit — a reminder that Supervisors of Elections have the discretion, but not the obligation, to extend early voting sites to university campuses.

Sites have to be finalized by Oct. 7.

Hogan is next up for election on the 2019 ballot. Thus far, he hasn’t filed for re-election, and no Democrat has filed either.

Hogan, a first-term Republican, defeated state Rep. Tracie Davis in the March 2015 election, winning by roughly 10 points.

Jacksonville City Council wrestles with public comment confrontations

Jacksonville City Hall had the kind of law enforcement presence Tuesday evening that is generally only seen when collective bargaining agreements are ratified.

And this was because of what happened just 13 days ago, when Council chambers were emptied in the wake of protest.

As First Coast News reported, the Chambers were emptied at the order of Council President Aaron Bowman after audience members objected to a motion to loosen public comment laws being squashed.

A chant of “No justice, no peace” broke out, and the sponsor of the motion — Democrat Garrett Dennis — said Bowman was “absolutely” to blame for the fracas.

Tuesday night saw the Council reconvene, and questions of order — though not on the agenda — were on the minds of  people throughout City Hall.

“Spillover rooms” were set up for potential scofflaws. However, for some Councilmembers, the question was one of abiding by the president’s decision. And no one was particularly interested in undermining Bowman.

Sam Newby, an ally of Bowman, noted that “this is America and people have the right to protest,” but that Bowman has the prerogative to disallow exchanges between elected officials and constituents from the dais.

Bill Gulliford noted that if a similar scene were to unfold Tuesday night it would not go “very well” for the protesters.

The scene was different Tuesday night, including “overflow rooms” for potential protesters, and approximately ten police officers in those conference rooms and even the green room space in which Councilors congregate.

During agenda meeting, Bowman noted his belief that public comment does not equate to “dialogue.”

“If I do have to clear the Chambers tonight, I’ve given control to JSO,” Bowman said during agenda. “If that happens tonight, we’re not going to open the Chambers back up.”

As the meeting began, however, there didn’t seem to be the critical mass of potential protesters.

And if there had been, enthusiasm was blunted, with discussion of a technical amendment on a bill regarding the precise size of 5G boxes to be put in city rights of way helping to remove the kind of emotion that typically drives protests from the room.

As public comment kicked off, Bowman noted that the previous iteration was “not proceeding safely,” reminding the crowd that he would not hesitate to ice the proceedings.

However, that wasn’t actually required, even as there were moments of pitched critique, especially relative to gun violence.

One speaker compared giving the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office more funding to “rewarding a dog after it tears up your house.”

“We voted you in, we will vote you out! And if you don’t aid in taking these Confederate statues down, Andrew Gillum will do it for you,” Rumsey added.

Another speaker, discussing her son who was killed last year, noted the lack of facial expression on the faces up on the dais.

And still another speaker posed a question to Bowman, asking for a poll to “close the gun show loophole” as the President of the Council.

Bowman was mute.

Ben Frazier, meanwhile, noted that Bowman didn’t “clear” the Council Chambers. Rather, people left in “protest” of the “paramilitary sham” that was the meeting two weeks prior.

“What about the voice of the people,” Frazier thundered, repeating the phrase over and over, his broadcast television training facilitating his raspy boom, until his time finally elapsed.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

Jim Overton leads Duval Tax Collector cash race

After the August primary, the race for Duval County tax collector is now a binary affair, with Democrat Mia Jones and Republican Jim Overton headed for a November clash.

While Jones enjoyed a strong plurality (46 percent) of the August vote (as the sole Democrat in the race), Overton barely emerged from a field of three Republicans, taking just 21 percent of the vote.

However, it’s now a two-person race — and advantage looks likely to shift to Overton, if the latest financial reports are any indication.

Overton has over $23,000 on hand (despite raising just $250 between Aug. 24 and 31).

Meanwhile, Jones — who was consistently in fourth place in fundraising — is now in second place with just over $14,000 on hand, even as her fundraising the last week of August ($1,485) was stronger than Overton’s.

Overton can self-finance, even if donors don’t fall in line. He seeded his campaign with $50,000 early in the special election period.

The GOP side of the race was fractious ahead of the August primary. Overton and Lake Ray traded attacks, with Ray devoting a lot of mail to undermining Overton.

It is uncertain if Ray will endorse Overton.

Likewise uncertain: whether or not the other defeated Republican, Doyle Carter, endorses the Republican left in the race.

When asked whether he intended to endorse by the Jacksonville Daily Record, Carter did not offer a definitive answer.

Nancy Soderberg touts big fundraising, poll momentum in Congressional bid

Former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, the Democratic nominee in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, continues to build a fundraising advantage after last month’s primary.

Soderberg’s campaign crossed the $2 million threshold on the strength of over 7,500 contributions this election cycle, a campaign release trumpeted Monday.

“We continue to be blown away by the grassroots support driving our campaign,” Soderberg said.

“Florida families in this district have made it clear they are ready new leadership. I hear time and again from folks here that they want a Representative who listens to them and understands their struggles. They know they can count on me to protect protections for pre-existing conditions because I’ve lived with one. They know they can count on me to protect Social Security and Medicare instead of threatening to make deep cuts, because I listen to seniors who are worried about their ability to retire. I’m proud to fight for folks here and I’m proud of the movement we’re building together,” Soderberg asserted.

Soderberg’s Republican opponent, Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret and aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, has raised over $1 million for the campaign, and doesn’t expect to have to raise that much to beat Soderberg in a district that has voted Republican in the last two election cycles, including +17 for President Donald Trump.

On Monday, Soderberg’s campaign produced a poll showing the race too close to call. Waltz’s campaign was skeptical, suggesting that Democrats may have been oversampled to get that result.

However, Soderberg campaign manager Blake Davis asserted Tuesday that wasn’t the case.

“The poll respondents were weighted to reflect the district, R+7, so we sampled [seven percent] more Republicans in the poll,” Davis said. “42% of those we polled were Republicans. 35% were Democrats, 23% were Independents.”

CD 6 runs along the Atlantic Ocean from the Daytona Beach metro area into southern St. Augustine.

Randy DeFoor retains cash lead over Sunny Gettinger in Jacksonville City Council race

In the race to succeed Republican Jim Love on the Jacksonville City Council, Love’s fellow Republican Randy DeFoor retained her cash on hand lead after August receipts.

But in what could be a preview of a runoff election, Democrat Sunny Gettinger is keeping pace.

As of the end of August, DeFoor had roughly $145,000 on hand between her campaign account and her Safe and Prosperous Jacksonville political committee.

The committee brought in $5,000 from real estate interests in August; another $3,250 of hard money came in, with the most interesting donor being former state Sen Mattox Hair.

DeFoor is the only serious fundraiser of the three Republicans in the field. Henry Mooneyhan has raised just over $12,000; Earl Testy raised $164.

Gettinger, meanwhile, raised $5,320 in August, with big-name donors including W.C. Gentry and Walt Bussells.

August was her weakest month of fundraising. However, she’s up to $94,000 on hand.

The other Democrat in the race, Jimmy Peluso, had just over $33,000 on hand (including July receipts). August fundraising was not available at this writing.

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