Jax – Page 5 – Florida Politics

Tracie Davis stocks away cash for primary clash with Kim Daniels’ former aide

Duval Democrats are noted for their internal wars, and an excellent current example of such is the House District 13 Democratic donnybrook between Rep. Tracie Davis and Roshanda Jackson, a former district secretary for state Rep. Kim Daniels.

The Davis/Jackson contest is one of two major primary votes awaiting some Jacksonville voters, the other being Davis’ political ally, Sen. Audrey Gibson, being challenged by Daniels’ ally, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Brown.

The Gibson/Brown contest is one-sided regarding cash-on-hand, $132,000 to $4.00 in favor of the incumbent. And at least in the early going, the Davis/Jackson contest is lopsided in support of the current officeholder.

Davis raised $3,100 in April, pushing her over $40,000 on hand out of $41,815 raised. Her top donors, at the $500 level: AT&T Florida PAC, Florida Dental PAC, and Fiorentino Group.

Davis, who has a fundraiser in Springfield Monday evening at Crispy’s on Main Street, looks to have a stronger May than April.

Jackson, meanwhile, has raised $830 in her two months in the race and had $800 of that on hand.

Per LobbyTools, the seat “is safely blue with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 54,686 to 22,554 with another 15,550 registered as independents.”

Jacksonville City Council committee defers JEA ‘no sale’ resolution

On Monday, the Jacksonville City Council’s Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety committee deferred a bill expressing opposition to selling the local utility, a hot button issue in recent months.

 2018-248, a resolution introduced by Councilors Jim LoveJoyce Morgan and Reggie Gaffney, would put the kibosh on moves to potentially sell JEA.

This discussion comes at a time when moves to sell or privatize all or part of the utility find a phalanx of detractors and no public advocates in the present tense.

Though official positions of both JEA Interim CEO Aaron Zahn and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry boil down to advocating a pause of some indeterminate length in a discussion of privatization of the utility, many observers of the process do not take those assertions at face value.

The deferral motion from Councilman Love seemed to catch co-sponsor Morgan and Councilman Garrett Dennis by surprise.

Love assured the committee that the bill would be back up for consideration in two weeks.

Jacksonville cannabis changes clear City Council committee

Ordinance 2018-75, which would revise extant code relative to medical cannabis, finally cleared a Jacksonville City Council committee after a number of false starts with Monday’s approval in Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health & Safety.

The code was formulated in response to “Charlotte’s Web” low-THC cannabis being the single legal strain, and after an extended period of debate, processing and dispensing were allowed in commercial districts, with cultivation permitted in agricultural zones.

The ordinance would change things, allowing dispensaries anywhere in the city, including within 500 feet of a school. The previous zoning categories would be revoked, as would the low-THC qualifier.

The bill puts code in compliance with Florida statute. The statute prohibits cultivation and processing facilities within 500 feet of a school but allows a dispensary given a waiver within 500 feet.

This bill will only apply to medical marijuana, meaning that if ever Florida legalizes cannabis for general adult use, another round of code revision likely will be necessary.

Before the vote council vote, Land Use & Zoning will be the next stop for this legislation on Tuesday evening.

Joe Biden wades into FL 6th CD primary, backing Nancy Soderberg

On Monday, former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg rolled out the most high-profile endorsement for her congressional race yet, with former Vice President Joe Biden backing the Clinton administration alum.

“I’ve known Nancy for three decades since she first started her work in the Senate,” Biden said. “She is a lifelong public servant who has served at the highest levels of government. At the White House and as an Ambassador to the United Nations, Nancy brokered international peace deals and helped develop and promote U.S. national security policy. She understands what it’s like to bring both sides to the table and solve complex issues. She’s been tested and she’s delivered.”

Biden is “supporting Nancy because she’s a problem solver, and will fight for the values of the 6th District: growing the middle class, creating jobs you can raise a family on, ensuring every family has access to affordable health care and every child can get an affordable education. She has the knowledge and experience to make a difference and get things done for the people of the 6th District.”

Soderberg, meanwhile, is “honored to have the support of Vice President Biden, who has dedicated his life to standing up for American men, women and children.”

Soderberg, a former Ambassador to the United Nations under Bill Clinton, currently leads the primary field with $920,000 in total fundraising and $595,000 on hand. She is keeping pace with Republican fundraising front-runners John Ward and Michael Waltz, without spending her own money on the campaign so far.

The candidate has one plausible competitor in the Democratic field: Democrat Stephen Sevigny brought in $250,000 in the first quarter. Sevigny’s total includes $50,000 in candidate loans. He finished the quarter with $227,000 on hand.

Florida’s 6th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Ron DeSantis, extends from St. Johns County south to Volusia on Florida’s east coast.

Audrey Gibson stretches cash lead over primary challenger Reggie Brown

Jacksonville political watchers are beginning to wonder about the strategy of Reggie Brown.

In August, the City Councilman opted to primary Democratic Senate Minority Leader Designate Audrey Gibson, but Brown has not yet actually raised any funds.

Through April, Gibson was far in the lead fundraising wise with more than $132,000 banked, with Brown far behind, closing the month with just $4 on hand.

In April, Brown raised no money and loaned his campaign $663.40, to defray costs for $1,883 in campaign signs.

Brown seems to be using city resources to increase his visibility. He held a “community fest” in April, and originally slated a “Health Education and Information Forum” event in City Hall this weekend, before cagily rescheduling the event for August — the heart of primary election season.

When asked about the conflation of taxpayer-funded events and an active candidacy, Brown’s reactions have ranged from defensive to profane.

Gibson, meanwhile, has been quiet about her challenger but has committed to fundraising, with strong April receipts measuring over $17,000, pushing her over $156,000 raised and to the aforementioned $132,000 cash on hand.

Gibson brought in receipts from unions, such as the police and fire locals, as well as racing interests, Crowley Maritime, and traditional Republican donors such as John Rood and John Baker.

SD 6 replaced the old Senate District 9 and is a Democratic stronghold covering the majority of the I-295 beltway in Jacksonville. Gibson was re-elected without opposition in 2016.

Gibson was voted Senate Democratic Leader Designate in November in the wake of former Sen. Jeff Clemens resignation. She will succeed current Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II after the 2018 elections.

Material from Florida Politics’ Drew Wilson was used in this post.

Jacksonville police union goes bipartisan with latest State House endorsements

Jacksonville’s local Fraternal Order of Police went bipartisan with its latest swath of endorsements for the state House, including choosing a Democrat over a field of Republicans running to replace Jay Fant.

In House District 15, the FOP endorsed Tracye Polson over Republicans Wyman DugganJoseph Hogan, and Mark Zeigler.

The language of the endorsement lauded Polson’s “dedication to her community.”

Polson is the safest bet of the four candidates in the race, in that she is unopposed for her party’s nomination. Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she has raised $211,000, with $135,000 on hand.

Republicans languish behind Polson in terms of resources ahead of what right now is a three-way primary, one in which a poll released last month by the Polson campaign shows her ahead of her best-financed Republican opponent in a general election clash.

Wyman Duggan, a lawyer for Rogers Towers with City Hall connections, raised $7,010 in April (a month that saw him endorsed by the political committee of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce), pushing him over $120,000 raised and $99,000 cash on hand.

Joseph Hogan, who reported no fundraising for March, reported just $3,000 fundraising for April, which leaves him poorly positioned in the primary battle ahead.

Likewise, yacht broker Mark Zeigler raised $9,150 in April, and he has roughly $20,000 on hand.

The FOP offered two other endorsements in the latest rollout, backing incumbent Republicans over underfunded Democrats.

In HD 11 and 12, the union went with Cord Byrd and Clay Yarborough.

Democratic opponents in both those races are struggling with real fundraising, which augurs poorly for their challenges to safe Republican seats.

Jacksonville Bold for 5.11.18 — Buy the ticket, take the ride

August primaries are close to three months away. Vote by mail ballots will go out sooner than that.

What that means is the time is now for candidates to show what their operations on the state and federal level really look like. And on the local level, where elections are still farther away, it’s infrastructure-building time.

In federal races, we have already seen pretenders separate themselves from ostensible pretenders. State qualifying is next month; some will take passes on those races, too.

Adding to the intrigue: An opening in the Duval County Tax Collector office. While not a thrilling position, it has four candidates (as of this writing) who have real political resumes. And that election, a special, is on the August/November schedule.

As the saying goes, “buy the ticket, take the ride.” Through next May, it’s all elections, all the time — that’s when Jacksonville’s municipal races finally close out.

Rutherford seeks federal penalties for targeting police

Rep. John Rutherford is a congressional co-introducer of legislation to make it an additional federal crime for criminals to attack law enforcement officers.

John Rutherford, a former Sheriff, has a personal stake in this legislation.

House Resolution 5698, the “Protect and Serve Act of 2018,” would create federal penalties for people who deliberately target local, state, or federal law enforcement officers with violence.

In addition to any sentences they may receive for the standard crimes, the fact that the crime was committed against a law enforcement officer could add 10 years, or a life sentence if the officer dies, or the perpetrator kidnapped the officer during the course of the crime.

“As a career law enforcement officer and sheriff of Jacksonville for 12 years, I know what officers go through every day when they put on their uniform, say goodbye to their families, and go out on the streets doing the important work of protecting our communities,” Rutherford stated in a news release from his office.

“With an uptick in ambush attacks on law enforcement, like we saw last month in Trenton, Florida, we must ensure that there are steep consequences for anyone who targets our law enforcement officers. The Protect and Serve Act will serve as a significant deterrent for anyone who deliberately targets officers with violence. I want to thank my friend, Congresswoman Val Demings [a co-sponsor and former police chief] for her leadership on this bill and for her support of law enforcement officers across the country.”

Hutson makes moves

Sen. Travis Hutson is pursuing the 2022 Senate presidency, and recent activity for his primary political committee (Sunshine State Conservatives) reflects that long-range goal.

The committee brought in $155,000 in April, and much of that money came from other committees.

Travis Hutson’s goal: Senate presidency.

The “Free Speech PAC” and “Citizens First,” both of 5730 Corporate Way Suite 214″ in West Palm Beach ponied up $40,000 each.

“Florida Jobs Alliance” and “Conservative Choice,” each of which share an address with Sunshine State Conservatives, were in for another $25,000.

These committees all appear to be pass-through committees, with money coming from other committees, and so on.

Also of interest: The contributions, dated April 27, represent a break from previous contribution trends for the committee, which predominantly (though not exclusively) has been from corporate and industry PACs.

The committee doled out $10,050 in April, including contributions to campaigns of Sen. Kelli Stargel, Rep. Joe Gruters, and a secondary Hutson committee, “First Coast Business Foundation.”

More significant spending could be found in March for the committee, which gave $50,000 to the FRSCC, to help with fundraising efforts.

As the race for the eventual Senate leadership continues to unfold, expect more interesting committee transfers … and, if April receipts for this committee are an indication, they will at least sometimes be hard to track.

Yarborough, Byrd pad cash leads

April told a familiar story in House Districts 11 and 12, where Republican incumbents Cord Byrd and Clay Yarborough expanded leads over Democratic challengers.

In HD 11, Byrd raised $3,470 in April, bringing his cash on hand to $38,500. Among his donors: the Fiorentino Group.

While less than $40,000 cash on hand doesn’t sound like much, thus far his Democratic opponent (Nathcelly Rohrbaugh) has yet to show real fundraising prowess.

Cord Byrd and Clay Yarborough both increased their money leads. 

Rohrbaugh raised $560 in April and has $1,010 on hand.

HD 11 is solidly Republican, with 66,830 of them compared to 30,574 Democrats as of 2016.

Though there are rumors that Byrd may face a primary challenger, thus far they have been all sizzle and no steak.

HD 12 saw a similar scenario: an entrenched incumbent continuing to plug away against a Democratic opponent in a deep-red district.

Though Yarborough brought in just $1,000 (and spent more than that on consulting), he nonetheless has over $103,000 on hand.

Yarborough, who was a two-term Jacksonville City Councilman representing a big swath of his current House district, is also one of the better grassroots candidates in the area.

Even with just $1,000 coming in, Yarborough outraised Democrat Tim Yost, who brought in only $745 off eight contributions.

Yost has nearly $4,000 cash on hand.

Polson continues to bank in HD 15

In Jacksonville’s House District 15, Democrat Tracye Polson continues to stack chips in her campaign account, with the hope of flipping the seat from red to blue.

Trayce Polson may prove the naysayers wrong, flipping a red seat blue.

Between her campaign account and that of her “Better Jacksonville” political committee, she raised $36,983.03 in April. The total raised is over $211,000 now, which is far and away the biggest nest egg for any Jacksonville state House candidate, Republican or Democrat.

However, given that the seat was uncontested by a Democrat in recent campaign cycles, and given that in most other local Republican-held seats Democrats are not well-funded, Polson’s campaign stands out as one with sufficient resources to make the race competitive.

“When I got into this race, we knew people wanted change, improvement over the same politicians and lobbyists who fail to provide results that improve the lives of working families in Jacksonville,” Polson said in a media release.

Democrat fundraises for Fischer challenge

House District 16, on the Southside of Jacksonville, is typically a secure Republican hold.

The district leans Republican with a 55,593 to 35,171 voter registration advantage over Democrats, according to LobbyTools.

Ken Organes’ family is willing to help him overcome a Republican registration advantage in HD 16.

Rep. Jason Fischer faced no Democratic opposition in 2016. And predecessor Charles McBurney had the same luck.

However, 2018 is a different matter, with Ken Organes carrying the Democratic banner.

Organes, buoyed by $7,500 of his own money, tallied $11,743 off 34 total contributions. Aside from the candidate’s stake, the vast majority of donations were $100 and below.

The former CSX employee still has a way to go to catch Fischer, who recorded no April fundraising either for his campaign account or that of his Conservative Solutions for Jacksonville political committee.

The campaign account has $82,000 on hand, and the committee has nearly $35,000.

Elsbury to replace Korman Shelton

Jacksonville’s director of intergovernmental affairs, Ali Korman Shelton, is moving on as of the end of next week.

And Monday, the office of Mayor Lenny Curry revealed the path forward for the team, with one promotion and two internal hires effective May 21.

Jordan Elsbury, a previous “30 under 30” honoree on this site, will replace Shelton going forward.

Leeann Krieg and Jordan Elsbury, pictured here with Councilman Greg Anderson.

Elsbury had already been working with Korman Shelton in intergovernmental affairs. A veteran of the campaign side who moved over to policy when Curry got elected, Elsbury has been a quick study in both the politics and personalities of City Hall.

Additionally, the team will be boosted significantly with two key hires from City Council staff to serve as Council liaisons.

Leeann Krieg, the Council assistant for Greg Anderson, and Chiquita Moore, the assistant for Sam Newby, will be moving over as coequal “Council liaison” positions.

Moore and Krieg will be charged with helping to move the Mayor’s agenda through Council, a process that may get easier at the end of June when Council President Anna Brosche relinquishes the gavel to Curry ally Aaron Bowman.

Tax collector special election

The position of Duval County Tax Collector is poised to open up in the coming weeks.

Incumbent Michael Corrigan is moving on, to become CEO of Visit Jacksonville. His resignation letter suggests that he couldn’t serve his entire term before taking that position.

While Michael Corrigan is moving on, taxes won’t collect themselves; hence, a special election.

Providentially, a group of Republican hopefuls, including Councilman Doyle Carter, former State Rep. and City Councilman Lake Ray, and former Councilman and Property Appraiser Jim Overton (who staked his campaign with $51,000) are already filed to run on the Republican side.

One Democrat has filed, and she is a major one: former Councilor and State Rep. Mia Jones.

There will be a special election.

The first election would be on the August ballot. If no one gets a majority of votes, the general election ballot in November would be decisive.

Qualifying for this race will occur between June 18 and June 22.

White ready to replace Carter on Council

Jacksonville City Councilman Carter was already termed out in 2019 before he threw in for the soon-to-be-vacant Duval County Tax Collector position.

And Carter made it clear that he backed his old friend Randy White for the Westside seat.

Doyle Carter is backing old friend Randy White as his replacement. (Image via Jax Daily Record)

Like Carter, White is a Republican. And despite the absence of any real competition for the seat, White has maintained consistent fundraising of the sort that would discourage any late-breaking challenge for the political newcomer.

White, now in his sixth month as an active candidate, brought in a relatively modest April haul: $3,700, highlighted by donations from Duval Teachers and Nassau County Fire and Rescue employee funds.

The candidate has raised $83,386 and thus far has spent just $1,402 of that sum.

Conry presses advantage over Boylan

April continued what is becoming a familiar narrative in the two-person race in Jacksonville City Council’s District 6.

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

Rose Conry continues to build a cash lead over her fellow Republican opponent.

And cash on hand sees Conry with an almost 2-1 advantage.

Conry brought in $8,050 in April, which pushed her over $77,000 raised and $70,000 on hand.

Among notable donors for the first time candidate: Michael Munz and a political committee associated with State Rep. Jason Fischer.

Worth noting: Fischer and Conry share a political consultant, Tim Baker.

Boylan lost ground during the month in the money race, bringing in $6,250, pushing him over $48,000 raised and $36,000 on hand. Not only is Boylan raising less money than Conry, but he’s also spending more of it.

Boylan is in a more precarious position than he might expect. Conry’s political operation is situated to make attacks down the stretch count. He will want to step up his fundraising, lest he becomes unable to counter them.

Soft April for Newby

Jacksonville City Councilman Sam Newby won his at-large seat on the Jacksonville City Council three years ago on a shoestring budget of just over $9,000, defeating a candidate who raised 15 times what he did in the May 2015 unitary general election.

Fundraising is only part of the formula for Sam Newby’s political career. Connections help also.

And, if his first month in the race is any indication, Newby figures he can win re-election without eye-popping fundraising totals.

Newby brought in just $4,600, with a $100 personal loan and $4,500 in outside contributions from five donors.

Nevertheless, those donors are noteworthy.

Among them, a “big three” of sorts: the Orange Park Kennel Club, the Jacksonville Kennel Club, and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing.

All three gambling entities gave the maximum of $1,000, as did Sleiman Holdings, which is currently in a legal imbroglio with the city of Jacksonville over busted docks and other issues at the Jacksonville Landing.

These donors suggest that if Newby needs to raise more serious money going forward, he could.

However, he didn’t in April.

Newby has one opponent currently, Democrat Chad McIntyre, who thus far has yet to report fundraising.

Another Bishop belly flop

When then-Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop finished a strong third in the 2015 mayor’s race, the Republican vowed that he would run for Mayor again, before endorsing Democrat Alvin Brown over Curry, the eventual Republican winner.

Bill Bishop is struggling in his latest campaign [Photo: WJXT]

Both the early declaration of a mayoral redo and the cross-party endorsement of Brown seemed like a safe bet at the time to many.

Bishop has long since abandoned his dreams for the mayor’s office and settled into a bid for an at-large City Council seat.

But fundraising continues to elude him, as another distressing tally in April suggests.

Bishop brought in just $1,225 during the month … much less than he is spending on campaign management ($3,000), via the RLS Group.

April was the second straight month in which the belly-flopping Bishop campaign spent more on campaign management than it raised.

The leading fundraiser in the race, Republican Ron Salem, continued to bank in April. He added $4,000 to his political committee and an additional $2,850 to his campaign account.

The committee has $11,000 on hand after April receipts; Salem’s campaign account, meanwhile, is over $150,000 cash on hand.

New judges in Duval

Two unopposed judge candidates will move on to the bench in Duval, reports the Florida Times-Union.

Assistant State Attorney Collins Cooper, a former Gators kicker who has faced criticism from supervisors over his perceived incompetence, will be one of Jacksonville’s newest circuit judges … Katie Dearing, a respected business attorney and the daughter-in-law of retiring Probate Judge Peter Dearing, was also unopposed and will assume office next year.”

Duval lawyers are likely to be hangin’ with Judge Collins Cooper next year.

There is one contested election: “Former state Rep. Charles McBurney and former prosecutor Maureen Horkan will face off in an election this fall for circuit judge.”

McBurney, recall, ran afoul of Marion Hammer and the National Rifle Association when he sought a gubernatorial appointment to a judgeship in 2016.

Do they have long memories?

Jacksonville Medical Examiner exits

The “challenging” tenure of “embattled” Duval County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao, per the Florida Times-Union, is at an end.

Rao wrote Gov. Rick Scott last week signaling her intentions.

Valerie Rao dealt with bad press from the start.

Rao’s tenure went from bad news cycle to bad news cycle, with early issues of employee turnover due to what the T-U summed up as “conflicts.”

“Rao, ironically, is retiring before she was ever reappointed to the position. She was up for reappointment in 2012, but Gov. Scott never reappointed her. Instead, he said he wanted more names to consider. Eventually, in 2014, the Medical Examiner’s Commission recommended two more candidates, but both ended up accepting other jobs. Since 2012, Rao has served as interim medical examiner.”

Record tourism for Jacksonville

Per Visit Jacksonville, 2018 is on a record-setting pace for local tourism.

Tourism is booming in Jacksonville, convention traffic a driver.

Behold, the highlights of a news release on the subject.

Total hotel revenue: up 12 percent year over year. Occupancy: up 3.5 percent. And average room rate is also up $5 year over year, to $96.39.

March hotel occupancy: 82.2 percent, with 462,000 rooms sold in the county, leading to $45.7 million in revenue.

Good news for policymakers counting on the bed tax. Convention traffic has been a driver, with 52 meetings through March locally. Targeted marketing and advertising, per Visit Jacksonville, have worked.

UF Health dumping outpatient dialysis

Tourism may be up … but it’s not helping the fiscal picture at Jacksonville’s UF Health.

Money’s tight at UF Health; changes are in the offing.

In a letter to Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche, CEO Leon Haley notes that the hospital is negotiating to sell its outpatient dialysis service to a national, not-for-profit provider by the end of June.

The seeming deciding factor seems to be that the move is made necessary by what Haley calls “significant federal and state funding shortfalls.”

State funding, per Haley, has dropped by $31 million in the last three years. Additionally, $12.7 million in federal cuts will happen this calendar year.

Feds fund ferry

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority announced Tuesday a $3,356,900 Passenger Ferry Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration.

A big win for Jacksonville, courtesy of the Donald Trump administration.

The money is earmarked for improvements for the ferry slips, the vessel and terminal.

JTA took over the ferry’s ownership and operations two years ago, noted its CEO.

“We have made a lot of improvements since JTA assumed ownership and operations of the ferry on March 31, 2016,” said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nat Ford.

“Ridership continues to grow, and improvements to the ferry’s infrastructure will continue thanks to grant awards that the JTA has received from the FTA,” Ford said. “With this recent award, the JTA will continue to strengthen the ferry’s infrastructure, and give our riders a safe and reliable service.”

In a media release, JTA thanked Florida’s Senators and Jacksonville’s two Congressmen, Rutherford and Al Lawson, for their work on behalf of the project.

Homeless rights bill filed

The Jacksonville City Council will consider in the coming weeks a “Homeless Bill of Rights,” legislation that will codify civil rights for the city’s dispossessed populations.

Jacksonville to enter the national conversation about homeless rights.

Ordinance 2018-308, filed by Councilwoman Katrina Brown, contends that “the basic rights all people should enjoy must be guaranteed for homeless individuals and families,” and attempts to “assure that basic human rights are not being trampled simply because someone happens to be homeless.”

The bill would guarantee the right to move freely for homeless people, as well as rights to be “protected by law enforcement,” to prayer, to voting, to quality emergency health services, to “occupy” legally parked cars, and to have a “reasonable expectation of privacy over personal property.”

Undoubtedly, at least some of the enumerated prerogatives will be major talkers in City Council committees.

The National Coalition for the Homeless has pushed for this legislation, and Brown’s bill aligns with the goals of that organization.

Smackdown for hit-free zone

A solid month of deliberation over a bill that initially intended to make all of Jacksonville’s public spaces “hit-free zones,” then was gradually watered down to just include City Hall and still make spanking permissible, ended with a 9-9 vote and the bill being killed Tuesday.

Big government won’t get in the way of parental spankings in City Hall.

Two weeks ago, the bill was deferred, with concerns about everything from “big government” overreach and inhibiting parental discipline to effects on employees tasked with stopping people from hitting each other in offices like the tax collector and supervisor of elections shops.

Last week, the legislation slogged through committees. Two panels voted the bill up 4-3; the third group downed it 3-4.

On Tuesday, despite the changes, the bill couldn’t get over the hump. As has been the case for a month, Council members defended the use of spanking to discipline children during the discussion, while fretting about unintended consequences of the legislative proposal.

Councilman Garrett Dennis, the bill sponsor who has been at odds with the Mayor’s Office, hasn’t been shy about saying that his bills aren’t getting a fair hearing because of City Hall internal politics.

This was the latest example.

Oddsmakers still unconvinced about Jaguars

The NFL draft is history, the first rookie minicamp is yet to begin. The regular season is still four months away. Many of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ players, coaches and management can’t wait.

After coming within five minutes of heading to the Super Bowl and adding some core skill players, the Jags and coach Doug Marrone believe they can take the next step. Those giving odds believe their chance is average at best.

Oddsmakers still not sold on Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville Jaguars. (Photo via Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The bookies at Bovada place three AFC teams ahead of the Jaguars and one alongside when it comes to winning the conference championship. The team that kept Jacksonville out of the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots, are again favored to defend their title in the next one.

Bovada has the Patriots as 9-4 favorites to win the AFC, but the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Jags defeated twice in Pittsburgh last year, are second at 9-2. The Houston Texans face 10-1 odds followed by Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Chargers at 11-1.

As the season progresses, Jacksonville’s odds will improve if the play of quarterback Blake Bortles resembles the Bortles displayed in the playoffs against the Steelers and Patriots.

With the draft providing Bortles with more help on offense, as well as fortifying an outstanding defensive unit, the Jags know they can now play with anyone. With the talent with the confidence and swagger — exemplified by shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey — they have a chance to prove last year was no fluke.

If betting were legal in Florida, the Jaguars might be worth risking a few bucks.

Jacksonville Democrats slam Andrew Gillum over ‘secret money attacks’ on Gwen Graham

The campaign between Andrew Gillum and Gwen Graham is starting to get ugly, and “dark money” is helping it along.

An attack on Graham comes from The Collective Super PAC, a group reportedly related to Collective Future, which had donated $235,000 to Gillum’s independent political committee, Forward Florida, through April.

The Collective Super PAC is spending $782,000 in Florida, starting with a commercial attacking Graham as a fake progressive, according to POLITICO reports.

The ad says Graham voted against Obamacare and for the Keystone Pipeline, essentially stooging for Republicans at the expense of President Barack Obama as a fake progressive.

Predictably, Graham is “disgusted that Andrew Gillum would allow a secret-money group to run a false attack against a fellow Democrat,” and Gillum’s side disclaimed responsibility for the ad.

Local Graham surrogates in Jacksonville have their thoughts — and they aren’t favorable to Gillum.

Two Jacksonville Democrats on the City Council, Tommy Hazouri and Garrett Dennis, don’t think that Gillum has done enough to distance his campaign from what are being called by the Graham campaign “secret money attacks.”

“Andrew Gillum isn’t telling the truth about Gwen Graham’s record and he knows it. Gwen never trashed Obamacare — she is the only candidate in this race who voted to save it from Republican attacks,” Dennis said. “Andrew Gillum supported her campaign for Congress and stood by her side — until deciding he wanted to advance his own political career. Now he’s selling out progressives and endorsing secret-money super PACs to attack another Democrat. Florida Democrats expect better than this.”

“Democrats in Jacksonville, Democrats in Florida, and Democrats across the country are tired of secret money silencing voters,” Hazouri said. “We deserve a leader with integrity. We want a candidate who stands up for progressive values, like LGBT and civil rights, fights to protect our environment, and will restore public education. That candidate is Gwen Graham, and that’s why I am proud to support her. Andrew Gillum should take responsibility for this disgusting attack and demand that it be taken off the air.”

Gillum, of course, can’t make such demands on an independent political committee.

Duval County School Board member Warren Jones, best known for decades on the Jacksonville City Council, was likewise umbraged.

“Gwen Graham leads by example. She is running a positive campaign, based off of her progressive record, and I am proud to support her. I know that when she’s governor, Gwen will restore public school funding and bring learning back into our classrooms again,” Jones said. “That’s what this election should be about: how to make Florida better for everyone and listening to the people of Florida. That’s what Gwen did in Congress, and that’s what she’ll do as governor.”

Graham and Gillum have spent much of the campaign avoiding personal attacks. However, with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine surging in polls and cash on hand, it’s clear that the two realize that their only path forward involves taking the other one out.

Material from Florida Politics’ Scott Powers was used in this post. 

Sunny Gettinger makes up fundraising ground in Jacksonville City Council race

With each campaign finance report, the race to succeed termed-out Republican Jim Love in Jacksonville City Council District 14 gets more interesting.

Republican Randy DeFoor‘s fundraising started off strong but seems to have tapered off. And Democrat Sunny Gettinger continues to build momentum, chipping away month by month at DeFoor’s early advantage.

April was Gettinger’s third month in the race and the third month with over $10,000 raised.

Gettinger brought in $10,355 off 66 contributions, including two from Tracye Polson, a Democratic candidate to succeed Jay Fant in House District 15.

All told, the first-time candidate has nearly $55,000 on hand.

DeFoor still leads in cash on hand, despite another unexceptional fundraising month in April, in which she brought in just $5,200 (and $2,000 of that was a check she wrote her own campaign).

Despite the sluggish receipts in April and throughout 2018, she has $95,000 cash on hand, giving her a strong lead in the race.

Two other candidates, Democrat James Peluso (who just filed this month) and Republican Earl Testy, are farther back in the cash race.

Peluso won’t report until next month. Testy has not reported April numbers yet, and had $150 cash on hand as of the end of March, six months into the race.

‘JEA will look different,’ per Jacksonville Civic Council committee chair

Thursday saw Michael Ward of the Jacksonville Civic Council tell the Jacksonville City Council’s Special Committee on JEA how his group’s study should be received.

In March, the Civic Council former a committee to ‘assess’ a potential JEA sale. Ward, a co-chair of the Civic Council‘s committee, discussed the influential civic CEO group’s analytic model with the committee.

Ward noted that anyone with a potential conflict of interest was weeded out of the committee.

“We wanted to be as clean as we can, transparent as we can … and avoid potential conflicts out there,” Ward said.

That choice was a pragmatic one given the political climate not too long ago.

When the Civic Council began this inquiry, the conversation about the future of JEA was pitched on the City Council, with sharp allegations that the Mayor’s Office was pushing the sale.

Now, however, the heat has been dialed back on the burner, with Mayor Lenny Curry saying in April that he wouldn’t push for privatization, a seeming reversal of his lauding the initial pitch in November 2017 as an example of thinking big.

Ward noted that “to sell or to keep JEA” is “not the right question,” and that the Civic Council expected the process (“not an appraisal of JEA”) to go as long as another five to nine months.

One potential way forward: splitting up the water/sewer and electrical components down the road.

A report will be formulated down the road, assuming the subcommittee and executive committee greenlight it.

Ward offered critiques of the optimistic valuation of JEA commissioned by the utility months ago, saying that there were flaws, as it was done by a “bond rating group not an appraisal group … a little oversimplistic. A full appraisal,” said Ward, could cost up to a million dollars.

“My guess is that when this is all said and done, JEA will look different from today,” Ward said.

Any acrimony was muted, with politicians deferential to the political stroke of the group.

Council President Anna Brosche and Councilman Bill Gulliford, at loggerheads on a potential sale and everything else, both lauded the Civic Council for being able to provide objective analysis during their questions and remarks. As did Council VP Aaron Bowman.

Councilman Garrett Dennis keyed in on the assertion that “JEA will look different than it does today.”

“I did not intend to say they’d be totally different … but good ideas will come up to make them a smaller entity,” Ward said. “This whole dialogue … will come up with ideas to make them better.”

Dennis posited that one improvement might come in governance, with Council selecting board members in addition to the mayor’s picks.

Ward punted, wanting to avoid “controversial issues” as “down-the-middle fact finders.”

The era of good feeling in the committee may not last past this week, however, with Council President Brosche saying that she had sent questions to the head of the JEA Board regarding how interim CEO Aaron Zahn was selected.

Brosche wants Board Chair Alan Howard to answer questions in the committee, an outcome which is far from a certainty.

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