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T-shirt theater: Governor’s campaign drama spills into Jacksonville City Hall

The votes have yet to be counted between gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis.

But the ethics complaints apparently are flowing in Jacksonville City Hall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And, just for general information, campaign regulations for the City are under Chapter 350 of the Jacksonville Code. The Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction over those matters.”

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

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

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

Dennis, a strong Gillum supporter down the stretch, may run for Mayor. And he noted that the incumbent took a political stand in this campaign at a city event.

Mayor Lenny Curry endorsed DeSantis at a city event in August. “I will do whatever it takes,” Curry said, regarding helping to get DeSantis elected.

Dennis said, “Several months ago, Lenny Curry ushered DeSantis around and took him to a city paid-for facility, endorsed him, and had city employees there doing the whole production on the taxpayer’s dime.

“The ethics office needs to be looking at that,” he added.

Will ‘blue wave’ drive gains for Duval Democrats?

The axiom in Duval County (Jacksonville): Republicans vote before they go to work, and Democrats vote right as the polls close.

If that’s the case, the Republican machine locally faces an existential turnout challenge.

As of 2:20 p.m., Democrats hold a nearly 5,500 vote lead, with turnout at 52 percent.

Democrats have 43.1 percent of the vote, Republicans 41.4 percent, and that’s with Republicans winning Election Day turnout by almost 6,500 votes.

This is unprecedented in recent history in midterm elections.

In 2014, 9,000 more Rs than Ds voted in Duval. In 2010, Republicans had a 7,000 vote edge.

2006 was D +700. That was the Katherine Harris for Senate year.

If traditional turnout patterns hold, this could affect local races.

Democrat Mia Jones, CEO of Agape Health Services, a former member of the Jacksonville City Council and a state representative, could end up taking the Duval County Tax Collector race against Republican Jim Overton,

Jones got 47 percent in a four-way election in August — and crossover support abounds.

Local establishment pillars John Baker and Gary Chartrand donated to Jones, as did Kathryn Peyton (whose husband, John Peyton, was Jacksonville Mayor).

But Overton isn’t without his backers: often-rogue Democrats like state Rep. Kim Daniels and Councilman Reggie Gaffney have been seen at his events.

Likewise, Republican Wyman Duggan and Democrat Tracye Polson are going down to the wire.

Democrats have led the vote total in the district, in which they hold a slight registration edge. Polson has run an active campaign; Duggan has been more restrained.

Republicans worry that the seat, currently held by Rep. Jay Fant, will flip.

In fact, some Republicans not associated with the Duggan campaign have been moved by Polson’s ads spotlighting Duggan’s lobbying work on behalf of a Canadian utility company that may want to buy Jacksonville’s municipal utility.

However, there are those who believe that, despite a million dollars being spent on this race, generic party id may make the difference.

Also on the ballot: A straw poll measure that would require the Jacksonville City Council to approve any attempt to sell more than 10 percent of JEA’s business units.

Many perceive that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry wanted to explore privatization. Democrats have pushed for a ‘yes’ vote on this measure, in part to protect unions, and in part to send Curry a message.

‘Excitement and enthusiasm’: Andrew Gillum’s impact on 2018 politics, polling

Jacksonville’s Michael Binder, the director of the University of North Florida’s Public Opinion Research Lab, sees a difference between the 2014 and 2018 Florida gubernatorial races.

That difference: the appeal of Democrat Andrew Gillum, which Binder says has created “excitement and enthusiasm” compared to the 2014 ballot.

Whereas Crist, a former Republican, may have been perceived as a “carpetbagger,” there are no such concerns with Gillum.

Gillum, says Binder, has helped to make Democratic turnout in Duval especially “light years ahead” of the 2014 cycle.

Duval’s African-American voters “propelled Gillum in the primary,” and they are likewise a key to victory Tuesday should it happen.

A big story coming out of the August primary: Surveys missing the #GillumSurge.

Logistics drove that, Binder said.

“There aren’t a lot of public polls in the last week. A poll released the day before the election is not going to get media attention,” Binder said.

“Polls are only as good as the voters are,” Binder said.

In other words, if voters say they are undecided, then decide after the poll, the survey can’t catch it.

Polls also have trouble with soft support, which can factor into primaries.

“There’s very little difference between most primary candidates in policy,” Binder explains.

Binder’s latest polling showed a decided move toward Gillum over DeSantis (56-31) among NPA voters.

He said that “midterms reflect the President” and that DeSantis, like Trump, has “done well among the base” but has seen drag with NPAs and moderates.

Another issue for DeSantis: a “charisma” deficit.

Looking forward to 2020, if “Gillum wins, expect extraordinary support of the Democratic nominee,” Binder said.

And where Gillum’s popularity stands will matter. If he’s popular in two years, it bodes well for Democrats.

“If he’s wildly unpopular, it could help Trump,” Binder said.

Meanwhile, the Senate race between Gov. Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, actually mirrors Scott’s 2014 re-election.

“Not a lot of excitement,” Binder said, but the race is “neck and neck.”

Don Cheadle shreds Ron DeSantis in Jacksonville radio, digital buy

Acclaimed actor Don Cheadle will be heard on Jacksonville radio in the next 24 hours, clowning Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis for various racialist controversies.

The 60-second spot from American Bridge spotlights various lowlights of the Republican campaign, including DeSantis refusing to return donations from someone who called President Barack Obama a “Muslim N—–,” and using the phrase “monkey this up” in reference to what Democrat Andrew Gillum could do to the state economy.

The ad closes with a quote from Gillum: “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”

DeSantis has struggled when confronted with these issues.

Regarding “monkey this up,” DeSantis called the furor over the phrase a “nothing burger” on Fox News.

“People are going to demagogue what you say,” DeSantis contended, adding that “the voters know this is a nothingburger … I’m not going to be derailed by these controversies.”

The campaign has devolved, often, into expressions of racist puerility, such as a risible robocall from an out of state group early in the campaign.

Cheadle’s radio spot and digital ad buy comes at a time when Democrats have done better in Duval County than any election in recent memory, carrying a 13,000 ballot edge into Election Day.

Democrats have cast 45.5 percent of votes, Republicans 40.2 percent.

There is a certain irony in Cheadle being deployed this way, as a star of The Avengers movies.

DeSantis has made hay of Gillum accepting a ticket to Hamilton from an FBI agent. In Jacksonvill last week, he said Gillum “had a thousand dollar ticket given to him to go to this play. It’s not like going to see The Avengers on a Saturday afternoon.”

On the last day of the campaign, a star of The Avengers seemed to offer a special receipt for DeSantis, a candidate who despite being just 40 years old, has seen his opponent endorsed by a pantheon of pop culture icons.

Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman wants four more years

Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman launched his re-election bid Monday, running for his second term in the Southside District 3.

Bowman, the former commander of Mayport and current senior vice president of business development for Chamber arm JAXUSA, was elected in 2015.

Bowman assumed the Council presidency in July, serving an important role as an enforcer for the establishment.

As opposed to the previous year, which saw Mayor Lenny Curry jousting with President Anna Brosche on a variety of issues, Bowman and Curry have managed to present a united front in public.

“The Chamber, the mayor and I all have many similar interests: downtown development, job creation, making Jacksonville a safer city, supporting and inviting business growth and good policy, etc. The mayor and I are committed to working together so it should be an active and exciting year for our residents,” Bowman before taking the gavel.

Bowman’s former Council assistant, Terrance Freeman, was appointed to the Council by Gov. Rick Scott this year after the then-incumbent was suspended pending federal charges for graft.

In a bit of irony, strong rumors are that Freeman intends to pursue Brosche’s seat.

Brosche, meanwhile, may challenge Mayor Curry in 2019; both are Republicans, but they have never managed a functional working relationship.

No Spanish language sample ballots in Duval County, claims legal filing

On Monday, plaintiff Marta Madera (on behalf of a variety of activist groups) sought an emergency ruling on Duval County’s failure to provide sample Spanish-language ballots at Early Voting sites.

The filing was in the Northern District of Florida, as the failure of Duval to provide such ballots contravened a September preliminary injunction requiring such.

The order would require Spanish-language sample ballots to be made available on Election Day.

The Supervisor of Elections thought he was exempt from the original ruling because he doesn’t provide English-language ballots at early voting sites.

“Duval Supervisor Hogan has asserted that he intends to provide Spanish language facsimile ballots at polling sites on Election Day, but he has not acknowledged that this Court’s Preliminary Injunction Order requires him to do so, and his understanding of his obligation to post Spanish-language sample ballots at polling sites appears to hinge on whether he chooses to post English-language sample ballots,” the filing contents.

“Duval Supervisor Hogan’s failure to acknowledge the requirements of this Court’s Order and his failure to make available the required Spanish-language facsimile ballots during early voting casts serious doubt on his assurances about Election Day,” the motion continues.

Crunch time: Ron DeSantis, Marco Rubio stump to Jacksonville GOP diehards

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis made his first of five stops Monday morning in Jacksonville with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, in an attempt to drive up election day vote.

The visit was especially pivotal given a Democratic lead statewide in ballots cast, including an almost 13,000 ballot lead in Duval County as of the end of voting Sunday.

In front of an enthusiastic crowd approaching 200 people (if the streaming video was a reliable indicator), Rubio urged voters to keep Florida “moving forward on the right track,” choosing between “big government” and “bureaucrats.”

“He has done his part. Now we have to do ours,” Rubio said.

The candidate said familiar things, including simultaneously trumpeting the economy as the best ever in Florida history while saying that there is plenty of room for improvement.

As he has done at many other stops, he suggested that Democrat Andrew Gillum would raise taxes, buttressing his points in a “non-partisan” economic analysis by the conservative James Madison Institute. He also depicted Gillum as a threat to gun ownership, and said that expanding Medicaid would be “bad for health” and would lead to “rationed care.”

“He doesn’t respect your individual freedom,” DeSantis said, before launching into a familiar litany of Gillum’s infractions, including raising taxes in Tallahassee.

He didn’t miss a chance to give his familiar indictment of Gillum’s dealings with lobbyists, amidst an FBI sting focusing on Tallahassee either. If Governor, DeSantis again vowed to “launch a statewide grand jury” on “municipal corruption.”

Before the headliners, Mrs. Casey DeSantis kicked remarks off to the faithful, essentially paraphrasing well-worn remarks her husband has used on the stump in recent weeks, likewise pillorying Gillum for his proposed tax increases and expansions of the social safety net before offering the capsulized biography of the candidate as devoted to public service above all else.

Lt. Gov. candidate Jeanette Nunez urged voters to say no to the “corruption” and “radical socialist” vision offered by Gillum.

DeSantis’ GOTV tour has urgency. Fresh surveys from St. Pete PollsQuinnipiac, and NBC say that Gillum is up by five to seven points, outside of those polls’ margins of error.

The trio of new polls shows a consistent trend that has had Gillum leading in nearly every survey for more than a month, according to RealClearPolitics, which tracks major polls.

Most polls, but not all, show a strong break of independent voters to Gillum.

While polling can be wrong (as exemplified by the Democratic primary race of 2018), what was clear in Jacksonville was DeSantis was racing against time and poll-demonstrated trends.

Al Lawson, John Rutherford expect radical change after House flip

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What concerns me the most about the House flipping: the Democrats control all the committees,” Rutherford said. “I think the investigations into some of the wrongdoing in the FBI and other investigations will stop. And I’m concerned about them (not) carrying forward with securing the border, and getting health care.”

Rutherford isn’t worried, however, that impeaching the President will actually happen — contrary to Democratic talking points.

“Impeachment isn’t going to go anywhere,” Rutherford said. “It may go somewhere in the House. But it certainly will never go anywhere in the Senate.” (The House only votes to bring charges against a president; the Senate hears the case and must vote by two-thirds to convict.)

“It’s a horrible distraction for the American public,” Rutherford added, “when what we should be focused on is security, the economy, fixing our infrastructure, and getting our health care right.

“But for one vote by Sen. John McCain, we could have fixed health care. We had our opportunity. And now we’re going to have to pick that back up,” Rutherford said.

Regarding the issue of birthright citizenship, which sees outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan doubting that President Trump can revoke that with an executive order, Rutherford noted that “this conversation about whether these babies should be granted citizenship has been happening for decades.”

“What the President is saying,” Rutherford added, “is let’s get a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on what this says. And the best way to force that is through an Executive Order.”

Lawson, whose party looks poised to take control of Congress, noted that “if we’re in the majority, everything changes.”

“The President’s going to have to learn to work more with the House to get his legislation through. Many of us will be in leadership roles. I’m getting calls from members all over talking about what they want to do,” Lawson said.

“Hopefully, if it flips, we will have cooperation between the House and the Senate so we can get legislation done. It doesn’t make any sense for us to be fighting. The American people didn’t send us up there not to get the job done.”

Lawson doesn’t believe, meanwhile, that impeachment will actually happen.

“You have some of those members who always talk about impeachment,” Lawson noted. “But the President hasn’t committed a high crime.”

“We need to start working with each other. The (2016) election is over, and now it’s time to get to work,” Lawson said.

Bringing it home: Jacksonville GOTV Sunday for Jesse Jackson

The Rev. Jesse Jackson decades back was a transformative Democratic candidate for President. Those days are gone, but he’s still working to GOTV. Sunday’s iteration is in Jacksonville.

Jackson’s visit has a different vibe than his 2016 visit.

While he was hopeful that early voting turnout was juiced, local Democrats on hand were less optimistic, a pessimism validated when Donald Trump took Florida.

2018’s campaign is radically different. Jacksonville Democrats strongly embraced eventual nominee Andrew Gillum ahead of the primary, and they are winning the turnout battle as Souls to the Polls Sunday gets underway.

As of this writing (11:20 a.m.), Jacksonville Democrats have cast 44.9 percent of the 207,797 ballots. Republicans cast 41 percent, despite a number of high-profile national surrogates such as Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Lindsey Graham coming to town to juice turnout.

Jackson has been appearing with U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, who will waltz to a general election victory Tuesday.

He also has two rallies Sunday afternoon.

2 p.m. finds Jackson at the Legends Center. 4:00 p.m finds him at the Eastside Bring It Home Rally at 1096 A. Philip Randolph Blvd.

Rain is in the area, and whether that dampens Souls to the Polls turnout remains to be seen. There is no Corrine Brown helming the Duval Democratic machine.

In that context, it is interesting that Dems are having their best turnout year in many cycles.

The race to replace Ron DeSantis in Congress cost $5M

Florida’s 6th Congressional District, most recently represented by Ron DeSantis, has become a swing district in the most recent election.

Democrat Nancy Soderberg and Republican Mike Waltz have, between them, raised more than $5 million for this race in the Daytona-centric district. Soderberg alone hauled in more than $3 million.

To the end, the candidates have been raising money. And Waltz especially has had totals worth noticing as the game closes, as he finally cleared the $2 million mark.

Waltz reported $144,000 raised since Oct. 30 alone ($50,000 of it self-financed). This sum pushed him well over the $2 million raised mark, with Jacksonville donors coming through, as did the Committee to Defend the President.

Waltz’s total post-primary haul: just north of $200,000.

Soderberg in just the last 48 hours hauled in $56,150. This wraps a very active post-primary fundraising period, one in which Soderberg raised roughly $190,000.

Donors of late have included potential Congressional colleagues, a sign of Soderberg’s establishment buy-in. Reps. John TierneyNita LoweyAnne-Marie Slaughter gave, along with political action committees, including Rep. Adam Schiff‘s USA-PAC and the political action committee for the National Education Association.

This seat has not been competitive recently: DeSantis, despite jumping back into the race reluctantly after junking his 2016 Senate bid, beat a lightly funded Democrat in 2016 by 16 points (the same number that President Donald Trump won by, as Hillary Clinton floundered in the district).

However, this is a swingier time for the district. So swingy, in fact, that POLITICO Florida reported that Waltz put the kibosh on a Trump rally on his behalf.

There is a reasonable chance that Soderberg could flip the seat, though opinions vary on how realistic that possibility is.

Democratic consultant Matthew Isbell thought the seat was “likely GOP” in the spring; he has since moved it to the “toss-up” category.

“This race appears to be much tighter in the home stretch … Democratic polls show the race tied (so add a few points to the GOP) and St Pete polls showed a GOP lead of 48-43 in mid-September. I wish we had more polls and the debate for me was Lean R or Tossup. Considering this district once backed Obama and could see a major swingback and Soderberg’s strong campaign, toss-up is my choice,” Isbell wrote.

CNN moved the race from “Likely” to “Lean” Republican on Saturday, citing the importance of outside money for Soderberg down the stretch factoring into heavy TV buys: “The vast majority of the roughly $3.7 million being spent on TV in this district in the final week is coming from Soderberg and her allies — including $2.4 million from Michael Bloomberg‘s Independence USA PAC.”

Real Clear Politics is less enthusiastic about the flip, calling the seat “Likely GOP.”

FiveThirtyEight.com pegs the race as a four-point Waltz win, giving Soderberg a 26 percent chance of winning.

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