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Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan is establishment choice for re-election

Jacksonville City Councilwoman Joyce Morgan faces a former two-term Councilman, Bill Bishop, in her re-election bid.

After one month of running an active campaign, Morgan, a Democrat representing the Arlington area, has taken the cash lead over the stalled-out operation of Bishop, who is just three years removed from drawing nearly 20 percent citywide in the Mayor’s race.

The Morgan/Bishop race is the latest piece of evidence that political prominence in Jacksonville can be an ephemeral thing.

Bishop abandoned his citywide run for an easier race earlier this year, but Morgan’s early momentum suggests that even a district race may prove daunting for his political comeback.

From the Jacksonville Jaguars and owner Shad Khan to the powerful bestbet empire and the Fraternal Order of Police, what’s clear is that the donor class backs Morgan over Bishop.

Morgan raised $15,697 and has nearly $14,500 in hand after her first month’s fundraising, which puts her over the peripatetic Bishop operation, which continues to combine slow fundraising and high recurring costs.

Bishop has just over $12,000 on hand after 11 months of fundraising, including a $700 haul in August that merely defrayed some of the costs of his campaign consulting.

Bishop and Morgan are the only two candidates in the District 1 race.

Tracye Polson builds HD 15 cash lead over flatlining Wyman Duggan

Democrat Tracye Polson is confident in her ability to take what is now a Republican-held seat in House District 15, and that confidence will only be bolstered after the latest financial reports in the race.

During the period from Aug. 24 to 31, Polson stretched her lead over Wyman Duggan, a Republican lobbyist whose backing from the Jacksonville establishment has not translated into winning the money race.

Polson brought in $6,042 to her campaign account, giving her $145,000+ in hard money. She also raised $3,100 for her committee account, which now has $41,000 on hand.

Duggan, conversely, raised $187,000 ahead of a primary, which he won with just 40 percent of the vote despite being the only candidate on television, with over $100,000 committed to ads where Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry vouched for the candidate.

He has less than $7,000 on hand now, with no money raised in the week after the primary. Polson has, at least for the moment, a more than 25-to-1 cash on hand edge over the establishment candidate.

Despite the cash lead, expect Polson to keep pushing. She knows that the machine never truly runs out of gas.

“[Duggan’s] a land use lobbyist and lawyer … Mayor Curry‘s handpicked candidate,” Polson said last week.

Despite the slight lean in voter registration toward Democrats, HD 15 has been a Republican seat for a long time. Jay Fant is the current representative.

Summons glitch reveals more inconsistencies in Katrina Brown story

For the city of Jacksonville, serving a summons on now suspended Councilwoman Katrina Brown apparently takes time.

In May, the city filed suit against Brown, a first-term Democratic member of the Council’s Finance Committee, for breach of guaranty, relative to a defaulted loan of $380,000 to the Browns’ family business, CoWealth LLC. [COJ v Katrina Brown].

The summons, however, was not served until late last month; according to the city, it was delivered to Brown’s mother JoAnn, at the residence they had shared since at least the 2015 campaign.

Brown, however, issued a response saying that she was not served and is not living at the residence, which raises interesting questions given her legal predicament.

Brown, who has been federally indicted on a charge of fraud and suspended from Council, has a court-appointed lawyer. Her sole job, being a member of the City Council, stopped paying when she was suspended.

Facing federal charges and without a means of support, it’s reasonable to wonder how Brown paid for a move from a home she lived in during her time on Council and while running the businesses that authorities assert are slush funds.

It’s a measure of the legal trouble that Brown faces that the city action seems almost quotidian compared to the federal claim.

CoWealth defaulted on the $380,000 loan after Jan. 1 2017, per the city of Jacksonville’s filing, which noted that the city is owed over $346,000 in principal, in addition to interest, late charges, and so forth.

The city fronted CoWealth $380,000 of loans from the city of Jacksonville and $220,000 of grants in 2011 to build a BBQ sauce plant in Northwest Jacksonville. The grant money was conditional on the company creating 56 permanent jobs, but none were created.

The city won a default judgment against the businesses, but that was effectively worthless. Brown’s parents, including her mother who ran the businesses, filed for bankruptcy months ago.

Councilwoman Brown, still an active candidate despite the legal issues, has drawn no fewer than eight challengers for her District 8 seat.

Brown will be tied up in court for months to come. She is headed for a February 2019 federal trial with alleged co-conspirator and fellow suspended Councilman Reggie Brown.

The federal government contends that the two Browns, who are not related, extracted hundreds of thousands of dollars for personal use from a Small Business Administration-backed loan provided for Katrina Brown’s family’s barbecue sauce plant.

The total list of charges: 13 counts of wire fraud, another 13 of mail fraud, five counts of money laundering, and charges of attempted bank fraud for Ms. Brown and failure to file a 1040 form from Mr. Brown.

Poll: Nancy Soderberg neck and neck with Mike Waltz

A new poll from Ambassador Nancy Soderberg, the Democratic nominee in Florida’s 6th Congressional District, shows her within one point of Republican Mike Waltz in a district Donald Trump won by 17 points in 2016.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and showed Waltz earning 47 percent of the vote to Soderberg’s 46 percent.

The firm surveyed 400 likely voters Sep. 4-6. The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

With the caveat that publicly released campaign polls are to be taken with a grain of salt, this poll does track with some analysts’ views of the race.

While the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato both peg this as a “likely Republican” seat, FiveThirtyEight sees a closer race, projecting Waltz to win by less than four percentage points.

If the race is that close, a poll showing a one-point margin certainly isn’t unreasonable, and may give Democrats hope this seat is flippable despite the district going easily for Trump in 2016.

The seat is currently held by Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, who declined to run for re-election to pursue the head job in Florida. The fact that the race is open may also put a dent in Republicans’ chances.

Soderberg also has a money lead over Waltz in a race that seems to be earning a lot of attention from Democrats.

Soderberg’s poll also showed Democrats up two points in the general congressional ballot. That’s actually below where most other surveys have the Democrats. FiveThirtyEight’s aggregator shows Republicans trailing by more than eight percentage points.

CD 6 covers parts of St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler and Volusia counties. The general election will be held Nov. 6.

After latest fundraising report, Aaron Bean has $200K on hand for re-election bid

State Sen. Aaron Bean, whose district encompasses Nassau and part of Duval County, crossed the $200,000 cash on hand threshold as of his latest finance report.

Bean brought in $2,525 to his campaign account and $6,666 to that of his Florida Conservative Alliance political committee between Aug. 24 – 31.  He has just over $100,000 in his campaign account, and another $102,000+ in his committee kitty.

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters donated the maximum $1,000 to his campaign account, offering the most locally notable name on his donor roll.

Regarding the $6,666 to his committee account, that came from Spring Hill Hospital and Brooksville Hospital, both sharing an address in Antioch, TN.

Bean faced what could be called a primary challenge; however, perennial candidate Carlos Slay fell short, garnering roughly 12 percent of the vote against the incumbent.

With Slay dispatched, Bean turns his attention to two general election opponents, each of whom face cash flow deficits compared to the incumbent.

Democrat Billee Bussard, a Jacksonville journalist of long standing, raised $1,660 in the week between Aug. 24 – 31. She has nearly $5,000 on hand.

Libertarian Joanna Tavares has not raised money, and has $40 on hand.

Senate District 4 has a strong GOP plurality. Of its just over 360,000 voters, almost 175,000 are Republicans, with 94,000+ Democrats and the rest being NPAs.

Jason Fischer kicks off general election with $11K one-week fundraising

State Rep. Jason Fischer, a first-term Republican from Jacksonville, faces a general election challenge — and judging from the first week of post-primary fundraising, he takes it seriously.

Between his campaign account and that of his political committee, Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville, Fischer brought in $11,000 in the week leading up to Aug. 31, giving him roughly $200,000 on hand as he faces his first election against Democratic opposition.

Fischer’s campaign account saw $10,000 of the action, buoyed by donors with organizational interests, including the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Rep. Travis Hutson‘s First Coast Business Foundation political committee, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Fischer’s opponent, retired CSX lifer Ken Organes, is at a cash disadvantage, with just over $31,000 on hand as of Aug. 31.

HD 16 is decidedly GOP, with 55,612 Republicans compared to 35,750 Democrats and 27,788 NPA voters.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry over $2.5M raised for re-election bid

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry has raised over $2.5 million for his re-election bid next year, after $221,000 in August receipts between his campaign account and that of his Jacksonville on the Rise political committee.

Curry’s campaign account took in $33,000 of that number; it now has $428,730 raised, with over $414,000 on hand. The committee raked in $188,000, boosting it to $2.138 million raised and $1.66 million on hand.

The committee donors reflect a statewide interest in Curry’s re-election, exemplified best by the First Amendment Fund (a committee funded largely by the committees of Sens. Joe Negron and Bill Galvano and Rep. Gayle Harrell) going $25,000 deep.

Local interest abounds also. The Rogers Towers funded Committee for Economic Development and Advocates for Business Growth accounts donated, as did the JAXBIZ political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber.

Thus far, Curry faces nominal competition for the March first election. Between them, his four opponents have raised less than $2,500.

Speculation swirled that Jacksonville City Councilwoman Anna Brosche (a Republican like Curry) was to file this week, and some of those speculators contend she has over a million dollars in commitments should she run.

When asked Friday, Brosche likened the talk to an “echo chamber.”

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis has also hinted at running. Dennis, a Democrat, has joined Brosche in the last year in standing athwart administration proposals.

Tracye Polson sees stark differences with HD 15 opponent Wyman Duggan

Dr. Tracye Polson, running in Westside Jacksonville’s House District 15, faces a general election battle against establishment Republican Wyman Duggan.

The contrasts between Democrat Polson and her opponent are stark: Duggan lobbies, Polson is a clinical social worker.

Yet, despite the slight lean in voter registration toward Democrats, HD 15 has been a Republican seat for a long time. Jay Fant is the current representative.

Polson’s strategy hasn’t been a secret. Lots of voter contact (including a town hall on 103rd Street Wednesday night), reminding voters that, while “special interest” driven candidates have controlled the seat, November offers a chance to change the game.

We asked Polson whether she thought Duggan was an exponent of said special interests.

“He’s a land use lobbyist and lawyer,” Polson asserted Wednesday. “I don’t know that Wyman will be as engaged and focused on the [issues faced] by the people here tonight as I am.”

“It’s no secret that he’s Mayor [Lenny] Curry‘s handpicked candidate,” Polson added. “I think that people need to have a choice.”

“I don’t know what Wyman would do if he wins this election, but I know it’s not what I would do or am doing,” Polson emphasized.

Duggan spent $25,000 per week on ads co-branding him with Curry, an expenditure that irked Republicans in the primary and that Polson sees as having sent a message.

“People have been literally calling me and saying that’s not OK. I had one woman call me and say ‘I just got his flyer and saw his ad. I heard about you and I told my husband ‘We’re going to help Tracye,'” Polson related.

Duggan’s co-branding with the NRA and President Donald Trump, per Polson, is a non-starter for many Republican women in the district.

“People don’t want that same old rhetoric,” Polson said. “It just sends people the wrong message right now. I don’t think that’s what people want to hear. It’s way too divisive.”

“We’ve been door-knocking since November,” Polson noted, with concerns from voters being jobs and education.

“We’re talking to a lot of teachers … gun owners … people with young children and they’re concerned about violence in our community. Those are the sorts of things we’re hearing about,” Polson said.

Polson is campaigning throughout the district, which contains multitudes: from the boho enclaves of Riverside to the boat-shoe brigade in Ortega, all the way out to the gun rack crowd on the western edge of Duval County.

“I’ll sit down with anybody,” Polson said. “People just want to be heard. They want their elected officials to listen to them.”

“This is a big district,” Polson said, noting that a function of a town hall like she had on Wednesday night is to be able to listen to people, even if they don’t agree with her.

“Listening to people will better inform me,” Polson added, regarding potentially “effective policy” on issues such as gun violence (a pervasive issue in the 103rd Street area) and others that are revealing themselves throughout the campaign.

Duggan’s team is confident that it will be able to “torch” Polson and define the race along familiar partisan lines. However, those watching the race will be interested to see whether Polson or Duggan does the best job reaching NPAs.

Polson ultimately is accruing advantages that Democrats might not have expected when she launched last year. Flippable is the latest group to see her as viable.

No one forecast any of this in 2016, when Fant waltzed to re-election without opposition and burned $70,000 on TV ads against a write-in in the closing weeks of the race.

For Tracye Polson, flipping HD 15 means defeating ‘special interests’

Dr. Tracye Polson, running in Westside Jacksonville’s House District 15, is the most likely Northeast Florida Democrat to flip a Republican seat.

However, she understands that to win that battle, she will have to run a gauntlet of attacks from the statewide Republican establishment.

Incumbent Jay Fant stepped down, and Republican nominee and lobbyist Wyman Duggan emerged from a bitter primary that he won with just over 40 percent of the vote. The healing has yet to begin.

Duggan introduced himself to the district with heavy television ad buys. He had to spend. Duggan, supported by the Jacksonville establishment (including political patron Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, who was featured in multiple ads), battled attacks against his lobbying for a company looking to buy local utility JEA.

Duggan raised over $187,000 but had less than $13,000 on hand after the primary election receipts were counted. That said, hard money only tells part of the tale.

Primary mailers from Central Florida Conservatives for Truth, a political committee with a seemingly unlikely interest in Jacksonville politics, were ultimately funded by Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, chaired by uber political consultant Anthony Pedicini.

That committee has raised $5 million in the last four years, and has been called one of the largest “dark money” committees by the Florida Times-Union. Recent contributions have come from House Speaker Richard Corcoran‘s Watchdog PAC, Disney, and the Associated Industries of Florida-yoked Voice of Florida Business.

While it is certainly more than possible that similar dynamics will play in the general, where appeals will be microtargeted by Duggan’s political team to suppress Polson’s vote, the Democrat is in a stronger position: at least on paper.

Polson had no primary challenge, and was able to spend the summer canvassing the district — one that has roughly 1,000 more Democrats than Republicans.

She emerged with roughly $140,000 in her campaign account and another $38,000 in her political committee.

Her early messaging post-primary has largely been biographical, exemplified by a video (entitled “Transformation”) released to the public Wednesday.

In the 111-second video, Polson describes her reasons for running: to “transform our lives for the better.”

That urge to transform informs the video’s narrative arc, in which Polson describes the struggles her Vietnam veteran father had after leaving the service and the “issues returning veterans face.”

“As a mental health professional,” Polson says, “I see people’s struggles up close.”

Those struggles include “veterans confronting PTSD, combat stress, and traumatic brain injury.” Not to mention children who survive school shootings, addicts in recovery, and first responders who “face daily horrors to protect us.”

“Too often, we accept problems as permanent,” Polson says. “I can’t accept the status quo any longer.”

“Big special interests tell us meaningful change is impossible. They’re wrong. We have the power to transform Florida,” the candidate says in closing.

Polson will hold what is being billed as a community town hall Wednesday evening at “Fatballs Sports Bar and Grill” on 103rd Street. The event starts at 6:00 p.m.

Polson’s video is below.

Nancy Soderberg, Mike Waltz spar over Affordable Care Act

In Florida’s 6th Congressional District, Democrat Nancy Soderberg looks to take the seat held by Republican Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis ally Mike Waltz stands in Soderberg’s way, and he and Soderberg disagree on many things. Including, as one would expect, the future of the Affordable Care Act.

The issue heated up Wednesday. Florida is one of several states with Republican attorneys general involved in a federal lawsuit to scrap the Affordable Care Act; the contention is that the elimination of a tax penalty for lacking insurance rendered the entire law void.

Soderberg joined many statewide Democrats Wednesday, defending the legislation’s pre-existing conditions protections.

“As a diabetic, I know firsthand how gut-wrenching it is to be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition,” Soderberg said.

“Over 270,000 residents here in Florida’s 6th District … watch Republicans fight to gut their protections. And if you haven’t experienced a pre-existing condition firsthand, chances are you know one of the more than 130 million Americans with a pre-existing condition,” Soderberg added.

“I believe affordable, accessible health care is a fundamental right and not a privilege, and in Congress, I will fight to make sure all Floridians have access to the care they need,” Soderberg added.

Soderberg asserted that Waltz “supports his party’s repeated healthcare repeal efforts” and “calls on Michael Waltz to reverse his position” on the ACA.

For his part, Waltz asserted that “Nancy Pelosi and Nancy Soderberg may think that the double digit healthcare premium increases under Obamacare are best for the people of CD-06, but as a small business owner who experienced the soaring insurance cost for my employees, I’ve dealt with the reality of their failed utopian vision.”

“People are suffering with deductibles as high as $10,000 – that’s not affordable, it’s devastating.” Waltz asserted. “I support covering pre-existing conditions and it’s unfortunate that my opponent is kicking off her campaign by lying to the voters instead of being straight with them about the terrible impact of Obamacare.”

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