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Ju’Coby Pittman, Terrance Freeman would face little fundraising challenge in Jacksonville City Council bids

Tuesday saw Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman and Republican Terrance Freeman appointed to the Jacksonville City Council by Gov. Rick Scott.

They will be sworn in at 3 p.m. Thursday, in Council Chambers.

The appointments were necessitated by the June suspension of incumbent Democrats Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown, after an indictment on a scheme to defraud.

Pittman isn’t saying whether or not she wants to run in District 8. Freeman isn’t saying regarding District 10.

However, if they wanted to run, they have proven that they have the fundraising chops to compete in what are diffused and lightly-funded fields.

Pittman, who raised over $138,000 in 2015 (when she narrowly lost an at-large race to Republican Sam Newby, who was buoyed by the Lenny Curry mayoral campaign) would need a fraction of that haul to compete with the current field.

As of the end of June, the most prolific fundraiser has been Tameka Gaines Holly, who has brought in just over $26,000.

Holly’s fundraising has, alas, sputtered of late. She brought in $2,477 in June, which is in the range of what she’s raised the last four months.

The other candidates in the race, including incumbent Katrina Brown (who won the seat with $45,000 in 2015), Diallo Sekou-SeabrooksAlbert Wilcox, and former state Rep. Terry Fields, are all under $10,000 in fundraising.

Worth noting: Fields, who has yet to report June numbers at this writing, did raise $90,000 in his 2015 bid for the same office, but he didn’t make the runoff in the May general election. He also raised $63,000 in his failed 2016 bid for state House.

The path for Freeman, a Republican with pre-appointment residency concerns who is serving a district that is just 19 percent Republican, is clearer still — at least in money terms.

In his 2016 race in House District 12, Freeman, beloved by much (but not all) of the local political establishment, raised over $73,000. That’s more than the $42,000 Reggie Brown raised in 2015 to win the seat. And much more than anyone in the field has raised thus far.

No candidate has more than $2,000 on hand. Freeman could match that sum with a five-minute trip to bestbet corporate offices.

Since Pittman and Freeman have been appointed to serve the final year of the suspended indictees’ terms, they could — at least in theory — win the elections in 2019 and 2023.

Jacksonville City Councilors Tommy Hazouri, Danny Becton wow with June fundraising

As the latest Jacksonville booster slogan goes, “It’s easier here.” And that especially holds true for City Councilmen running for re-election without opposition, particularly if they have gone along with the money’s agenda for three years.

Exhibit A: former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri, a Democrat seeking a second term.

Hazouri notably scrapped with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry in his first year in office, but fell in line when it became time to sell the 2016 pension-reform referendum, including fundraising for and cutting an ad for the push.

The reward: boffo June fundraising.

The Hazouri haul of $55,285 was boosted by money from Republican donors, including $500 and $1,000 contributions from multiple companies related to the deep-pocketed best bet empire, Preston Haskell, former Donald Trump Florida campaign chair Susie Wiles, former Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton‘s Gate Petroleum, J.B. Coxwell Contracting, and Peter Rummell.

Yes, some key Democrats gave too. But the message is clear: Hazouri got with the program in 2016 and 2017, and gets the checks in 2018 and 2019. It will be tough for a Republican to run against him.

Exhibit B… but with some caveats: Republican Councilman Danny Becton, who launched strong ($62,745), but — ironically enough — with many different backers, with some key Curry backers holding off in his firs

Yes, Becton had the best bet money.  And Michael Munz, a key Curry backer, also ponied up. But Haskell, Wiles, et al did not.

Becton did have money, however, from Sleiman Holdings: an interesting donor, especially in light of Sleiman and the city of Jacksonville’s continuing legal wrangle over the future of the Jacksonville Landing.

Becton has been known to raise fits before: his cavils on Council committees sounded a rare discordant note ahead of the city’s decision to drop $45 million into the latest round of improvements at the Sports Complex. And his push to put more money toward pension obligations likewise went over poorly with the Mayor’s Office.

Worth watching: will more of Curry’s base fall in line behind Becton? Or might a candidate emerge to challenge and to collect that institutional money?

Jacksonville officials: Rick Scott’s City Council appointee poised to meet residency requirements

As we reported this morning, Republican Terrance Freeman was selected by Gov. Rick Scott to represent Jacksonville City Council District 10.

District 10 is just 19 percent Republican, which suggests that an appointment (in the wake of the suspension of the incumbent) would be the only way a GOP member would get seated.

But Freeman, an agreeable pick to the Jacksonville business community, looked to have some logistical blocks going forward, with seeming doubts as to whether he could even serve due to residency issues.

District 10 is in Northwest Jacksonville, a world away from Freeman’s homestead residence, which is in deep Mandarin near Julington Creek. As of Tuesday morning, that was also the address listed on his voter registration.

This residency issue looked to create some potential problems for Freeman, whose last campaign was for a state House seat in the Arlington area of Jacksonville’s Southside.

However, Freeman told us late Tuesday that he has “taken all the steps necessary to be sworn in.”

The Mandarin house will have a “for sale” sign on it soon, Freeman said, and the family will move to a newly-leased residence in District 10.

Freeman, confident the issues have been resolved, is looking forward to serving District 10. He believes his experience on the council will allow him to be effective in addressing district needs.

And he intends to have a town hall soon, where he will be able to hear from his new constituents. But, as of now, he’s not committing to run — or not to run — in the 2019 election.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office offered a statement affirming the legality of the move: “Mr. Brown was suspended from office by the Governor following very serious felony charges. Mr. Freeman was appointed to serve in his seat on an interim basis due to the suspension. This temporary appointment complied with the law. Any questions regarding the city’s charter should be directed to the city.”

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Mike Hogan also expressed confidence that Freeman resolved the issue.

The candidate updated on Tuesday his voter registration with an address in the district, technically establishing residency in time to run for election to the seat.

The deadline to establish residency is 183 days before qualifying (which starts Jan. 7 and ends Jan. 11).

This date (per a document from the SOE) appeared to have been July 8. But it is in fact July 12, per Hogan.

That would put Freeman in ahead of the statutory deadline; Scott officially appointed Freeman to the council July 10.

As well, Freeman (as he is not sworn in yet) is eligible to serve as a newly-minted resident of District 10.

General Counsel Jason Gabriel noted that the threshold for eligibility to serve, per Gabriel, is when Freeman is sworn in. The governor’s appointment is not the time marker, per Gabriel’s interpretation.

Municipal code explains it this way: “Every member of the council shall be continuously throughout his or her term of office, a resident and qualified elector of Duval County, and of his or her district or residence area,” per Section 5.04.

Residency questions have emerged before in Jacksonville politics: Jay Jabour, a former councilman, resigned after not meeting residency requirements for an at-large seat.

Council President Aaron Bowman, who employed Freeman as a council assistant earlier in his term, asserted earlier that Freeman meets requirements.

“It is my understanding that as long as he has residency prior to swearing in, he is good,” Bowman texted.

Bowman followed up with a confirmation from the Office of General Counsel. Freeman, asserted Bowman, simply “needs residency prior to swearing in.”

As well, per Bowman, Freeman “needs residency by tomorrow for the 2019 election.”

Mayor Lenny Curry seems fine with the appointment.

Duval Democrats, meanwhile, are already making waves: “We applaud Governor Scott for appointing a resident Democrat to represent Council District 8, a overwhelming majority Democratic district. However, it flies in the face of reason why Scott would appoint a Mandarin Republican who lives 20 miles away in District 6, to Democratic Council District 10 on the city’s Northside. Its hard to find the connection between the needs of the constituents of District 10 with this appointment.”

The Duval Democrats amplified this statement Tuesday afternoon.

“The Party’s position is that Freeman is not eligible to serve as District 10’s Councilman because he does not live within the District. The city charter is clear: ‘Every member of the Council shall be continuously throughout his or her term of office, a resident and qualified elector of Duval County, and of his or her district.'”

“Every elected official in Duval County is legally bound to follow this standard. Freeman should be no exception. Additionally, he would not be eligible to run for District 10 because he has not been an elector in the district for 183 days before qualifying (Section 5.04),” the Democrats assert. “The fact Governor Scott choose to appoint Freeman in spite of these obstacles defies reason.”

A legal challenge to the appointment seems possible, in this context. But city officials seem to agree that Freeman is eligible to serve.

The other Council appointee, Democrat Ju’Coby Pittman, has two residences in her District 8, and faces no such concerns regarding eligibility

Huge haul: Lenny Curry rakes in $244K June money for re-election

Though much attention has justifiably been paid this week to an “international scam” that saw a political action committee of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry bilked out of $120,000 (most of which since repaid by the campaign treasurer), the reality is that Curry continues to bank ahead of a re-election campaign against candidates who can’t fundraise.

June was a typical month for Team Curry: $33,125 in hard money, and $211,000 for his re-election committee, Jacksonville On the Rise. (“Build Something That Lasts,” the committee that was scammed by a Nigerian/Luxembourgian conspiracy, reported no funds raised).

All told, the Curry operation has nearly $1.75 million on hand, against four filed candidates who have raised, between them, just over $1,500.

Among the interesting hard money donors: trial lawyers Eddie and Chuck Farah.

The soft money donations were heavy on contractors, suggesting that yet another corner of the business community wants four more years.

Though there has been rampant speculation that Anna Brosche or Garrett Dennis, two Jacksonville City Councilors, are looking at the seat, the reality is that Curry’s fundraising isn’t slowing down, and time is ticking for a challenge to materialize and ramp up a campaign operation.

When Curry challenged Alvin Brown in the 2015 election, he filed in June 2014; however, he laid the groundwork for a run months before, discouraging other Republicans who may have been eyeing a challenge.

It doesn’t seem that groundwork is being laid by a potential challenger at this writing.

Al Lawson, Nancy Pelosi slate Friday campaign stop in Jacksonville

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, facing a competitive Democratic primary in Florida’s 5th Congressional District against former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, is bringing in some star power in support on Friday.

Said star power: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who despite being embattled with prospective leadership challenges from younger members of the Democratic caucus, nonetheless serves a key purpose as a powerful backer of Lawson’s re-election campaign.

Lawson voted for Pelosi in 2016’s leadership elections, and now she is backing the first-term Tallahassee Democrat on his opponent’s home turf.

Lawson and Pelosi plan a Friday evening press availability at Lawson’s campaign headquarters (1680 Dunn Avenue, Suite 38), along with a meet and greet that kicks off at 5 p.m.

Since Jacksonville Republicans such as Shad Khan have endorsed Brown, Lawson has messaged around the theme of Republicans trying to buy the seat.

With Pelosi at his side, expect Lawson to make similar claims Friday evening.

While we wait on Q2 finance data for Brown and Lawson, Q1 showed parity in cash on hand. Lawson had, at the end of March, $159,000 on hand; Brown, $127,000.

Terrance Freeman, Ju’Coby Pittman are Rick Scott’s picks for Jacksonville City Council

Gov. Rick Scott chose on Tuesday a Republican and a Democrat to replace indicted and suspended Jacksonville City Council members Katrina and Reggie Brown.

The news was first reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record,

The Republican: Terrance Freeman. He is connected, has deep Chamber ties and equally deep political ambition, reportedly replacing Reggie Brown in District 10.

The Democrat: Ju’Coby Pittman. Liked on both sides of the aisle, the Democrat will reportedly take over District 8.

What’s interesting: Scott’s office would not confirm the picks when we asked. Monday night saw the Governor’s office assert that they have “not made any announcements regarding these appointments.”

They waited until Tuesday to make the announcement official.

It is still a mystery where the Daily Record story came from, if not from the Scott administration. Also mysterious is the precise amount of collaboration between the Curry and Scott teams on the selections.

Mayor Lenny Curry told Florida Politics in June that, if needed, his team would provide “advice” on the picks. Asked weeks later, Scott said that while he didn’t talk to Curry’s team, someone in his office might have.

It’s hard to imagine picks more agreeable to the Mayor’s Office.

Freeman is a very careful politician, mindful of the need to preserve relationships with the donor class. Pittman, meanwhile, is not going to be inclined to rock the boat rhetorically. The periodic tempests caused by the Browns, in other words, will calm down just in time for election year.

Both were easy picks (if delayed in the rollout), particularly in the case of Freeman. The Republican didn’t apply for the process until weeks after the openings were made public.

Freeman, a former Council aide to President Aaron Bowman, was backed by the business community in an unsuccessful run for the state House in 2016.

Pittman, who runs the Clara White Mission, lost a nail-biter in 2015 to Republican at-large Councilman Sam Newby. She has a stellar reputation in City Hall and worked closely with Newby after the election.

Ahead of the selection, Freeman told us he “would consider [the appointment] the opportunity of a lifetime.”

If appointed, he vows to offer “a strong voice in local government” and to “work collaboratively with the Mayor’s Office and Council leadership to represent the District with honesty, integrity, and honor, ensuring that I’m leading discussions that are beneficial for the district and the City of Jacksonville as a whole.”

If these candidates should run for re-election, they will face crowded fields, though the fields are full of relatively unmonied candidates.

In District 8, seven Democrats and an NPA candidate are filed. The leading fundraiser through the May reports is Tameka Gaines Holly, who has just over $20,000 on hand.

Katrina Brown, with her legal case still pending, is still an active candidate for re-election.

In District 10, two Republicans and seven Democrats filed. If Freeman (currently living in Mandarin, and ran for state House in Arlington) wants in on the battle in Northwest Jacksonville, the leading fundraiser is Kevin Monroe, who nonetheless has under $2,000 on hand.

Doctor’s orders: Florida Medical Association PAC backs Aaron Bean re-elect

State Sen. Aaron Bean faces both a primary challenge and, if he wins, a general election battle in Senate District 4. However, the Fernandina Beach Republican has advantages his challengers don’t, such as key endorsements.

The latest, via the Florida Medical Association PAC,  a group of physicians, was rolled out Tuesday morning.

Per media release from the Bean Team, FMA PAC President Dr. Mike Patete asserted that “Bean has worked tirelessly for the constituents of his district on many important issues including health care. Serving on various health care committees during his time in the Senate and House, the FMA has worked closely with Senator Bean and we look forward to continuing our work to help make Florida the best state to practice medicine.”

Among Bean’s priorities: telemedicine legislation. His bill passed the Senate without a no vote in 2018, but died without a hearing on the House side.

Bean is “honored to receive the endorsement from such a premier professional organization for physician leadership, patient care and education in Florida.”

“I look forward to the opportunity to work with the FMA members and leadership, to continue to serve my community and constituents, and know together we can play a vital role in shaping effective and innovative health policy in Florida,” Bean added.

The FMA imprimatur will boost Bean, an established incumbent, against a field full of less established challengers.

Bean has roughly $160,000 on hand, between hard money and his political committee.

Bean’s primary opponent Carlos Slay, backed by Bean’s political rival, former Rep. Janet Adkins, has not raised any money, and paid his filing fee via a personal loan.

The winner of the Bean/Slay clash will face two general election opponents, Democrat Billie Bussard and Libertarian Joanna Tavares.

Bussard has $4,500 on hand, having raised money between June 5 and June 22.

Tavares has less than $40 on hand after having paid her filing fee.

Rose Conry stretches cash edge over Michael Boylan in Jacksonville City Council race

More of the same in June in what is still a two-person race in Jacksonville City Council’s District 6.

Rose Conry still holds the money lead over former WJCT CEO Michael Boylan, as two Republicans vie to succeed termed-out Matt Schellenberg.

And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage. Conry raised $86,585 and has over $77,000 on hand. Boylan raised $61,150 with just over $42,000.

Boylan, who is raising less than his opponent over time, is spending more in aggregate.

In June, Conry actually raised less than Boylan, though the $4,500 she brought in included checks from U.S. Rep. John Rutherford (who shares a political consultant, Tim Baker), and Rep. Travis Cummings‘ committee “First Coast Conservatives.” She spent just $290 in the month.

Boylan, who outraised Conry in June, brought in $7,700. The most interesting donor on the list: Sleiman Holdings.

Local developer Toney Sleiman endorsed Alvin Brown over Lenny Curry in 2015, and since Curry’s election, Sleiman and the city have sparred over the dilapidated Jacksonville Landing — a feud that is now in court. Conry is Curry’s candidate; Boylan apparently is Sleiman’s.

Boylan spent almost as much as he raised ($7,011), with the bulk of the costs being on printing campaign materials and renting a venue for his campaign launch.

​Jacksonville City Council money race tightens between Sunny Gettinger, Randy DeFoor

The Jacksonville City Council District 14 race, a Riverside/Avondale/Ortega seat, continued in June with active fundraising from the leading candidates.

While Republican Randy DeFoor remains the cash leader, Democrat Sunny Gettinger gained ground again last month, setting the stage for what will be a costly race (at least by district Council standards), which likely won’t be decided until the May general election.

Gettinger, in the race for five months, never raised less than $10,000; June was no exception.

The Ivy-educated former chair of Riverside Avondale Preservation, professionally a communications manager for Google Fiber, raked in $15,835 off 69 contributions.

Among the bigger names cutting June checks: former Councilwoman Ginny Myrick and Sherry Magill, the former executive director of the non-profit Jessie Ball DuPont Fund.

Worth noting: Magill, an ally of former City Council President Anna Brosche, was co-chair of a Council task force, whose final report was heavily critical of Mayor Lenny Curry‘s administration regarding transparency issues.

Despite nearly $80,000 on hand, Gettinger will have to continue outperforming DeFoor to attain parity. Even after a month where DeFoor, a senior vice president and National Agency Counsel for Fidelity National Financial, raised just $9,800 between her campaign account and that of her political committee, the Republican still has over $142,000 on hand.

Also, DeFoor is attracting the kinds of hard money donors who, if inclined, are comfortable ponying up soft money on the committee side. Among them: Shad Khan and his Jacksonville Jaguars, W.W. Gay, Stellar, and Build Something That Lasts, Curry’s political committee.

The field is five people strong, with three male candidates behind the women in terms of finance.

Democrat Jimmy Peluso, yet to file June numbers at this writing, raised more than $26,000 in May. Republican Earl Testy stalled out with $164 in the bank; newly registered Henry Mooneyhan has yet to report any fundraising.

Bill Bishop fundraising woes continue in Jacksonville City Council bid

Jacksonville City Council candidate Bill Bishop dropped his at-large bid in favor of a district race last month.

There seemed to be pragmatic reasons for the move; Bishop was losing in fundraising to fellow Republican Ron Salem.

The race, in Arlington’s District 1, had no filed candidates (though all expectations are that incumbent Democrat and vice-chair of the Finance Committee, Joyce Morgan, will file for re-election).

Morgan, some have whispered, may meet donor class resistance this campaign, after floating a trial balloon that would increase regulatory burdens on commercial landlords (as reported by the Jacksonville Daily Record).

However, whether or not donors fall in behind Morgan, what’s clear is that they haven’t rushed to support Bishop, at least if June numbers are meaningful.

In June, Bishop raised $1,790 (his best haul since February), and spent $1,510; he now has just over $11,700 on hand.

The one bright spot for Bishop, a potential augury of some donor class support: $1,000 from Preston Haskell.

Bishop’s operation has been characterized by a high burn rate, with a regular $1,500 monthly fee to the RLS Group for campaign management eating into the nearly $26,000 raised.

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